Legislature May Drop Graduation Test

Legislature May Drop Graduation Test

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- There's a move afoot in the Legislature to discard the U-PASS graduation test before high school students ever have to take it to graduate.

The Public Education Legislative Task Force voted Thursday to ask that the matter be added to the agenda for an October special session.

Dr. Louise Moulding, state evaluation and assessment director, told the committee that the state could save up to $5 million by getting rid of the testing component of U-PASS, or Utah Performance Assessment System for Students.

Legislative action is needed soon if the state plans to save that money. Printing will begin in six to eight weeks for February testing.

The 2000 Legislature mandated all Utah graduates pass a basic skills test that they would first take in the 10th grade. If they failed, they would have several more opportunities before graduation.

However, last session, legislators passed Republican Sen. Thomas Hatch's education reform bill that partially implements recommendations of the Employers' Education Coalition.

Moulding said the money could be better used to implement those reforms, which increase high school graduation standards and require students demonstrate they have met basic competencies before they graduate.

"Senate Bill 154 calls for competency measured progress-based assessments," Moulding said. "It seems obvious to me that the competency requirement wasn't referring to something like the basic skills competency test."

So far, the state Office of Education has spent about $4 million developing the U-PASS test and administering a pilot test to students.

Moulding said the money is not wasted as test questions could be used in other tests.

Rep. Gordon Snow, R-Roosevelt, said the committee should wait if it wasn't assured a "slam dunk" in the special session.

"I think it's a slam dunk in here, but all our colleagues aren't up to speed and don't have the same information," he said.

Some legislators are worried that if the test is eliminated and Senate Bill 154 is not implemented because of its $200 million annual price tag, the state will be left with nothing to show for its effort to increase graduation standards.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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