Student opinion: Proficiency Test

Although many views have been expressed concerning the issue of the Nevada Proficiency Test, its requirements and whether or not students who have not passed should walk at graduation, I still feel my voice and opinion need to be heard.

My name is Josh Brekken. I was the senior class president of Carson High School's 2003 graduating class, I was a member of the 2002 Boys' State delegation, and I was a member of the 2002 National Association of Student Councils.

I'm writing in response to the column "One walks, they all walk" by Christina Hanson published on the June 14 "whatever" page of the Nevada Appeal.

First off, you should all know that I disagree with almost everything stated in the article. I am a firm believer that anyone who has gone through high school, studied constantly, and passed all of the classes required by Carson High School should easily be able to pass the proficiency test.

This, of course, is excluding any student with a learning disorder or mental disability: "Students who are considered 'special education,'" as Ms. Hanson put it in her article.

This item of "special-education" students will be the first I address concerning her article. She states that these special kids "are taught in classrooms with fewer students, giving them more one-on-one teacher time. They are allowed to use a calculator, and if they do not pass the test, they receive an adjusted diploma and are allowed to walk at the graduation ceremony."

She later states, "Others are getting extra privileges and are allowed to walk with their class." One can only assume she is speaking of the special-education students. So to get her view straight, kids who are deemed "special education" are getting more privileges than her and her friends.

Well, I'm sorry, but I think that view is rather asinine. We are talking about kids who have learning disorders and mental disabilities. They were born with their symptoms and can do nothing about it, yet she believes they deserve no more attention than kids who have no disorders or disabilities whatsoever.

I think that is sick and wrong of her to say she deserves as much attention and privilege as other students who have been determined by medical and psychological professionals to be of certain mental disorders.

Which brings me to my next point: the attention students at Carson High School and other schools around Nevada get regarding the proficiency tests.

I'm not sure with other schools, but at Carson High School, each and every kid gets more than a generous opportunity to pass the proficiency test.

They have a class, proficiency math, specifically designed to help kids pass the math portion of the proficiency. They have after-school tutors, teachers, counselors and administrators who are all willing to help students pass any portion of this test. Not only that, but students are allowed to take the test an enormous amount of times in order to pass.

Ms. Hanson took it nine times herself.

She states in her article, "Students are putting their all into this test, yet no matter how hard they try, they cannot pass." I find this pretty hard to believe.

First of all, let's define "their all." This means everything they've got, no breaks. If any one of the students who didn't pass the proficiency truly gave it "their all," I invite them to challenge this article and its statements.

If they did all their homework for their other classes, finished working at the jobs they had or didn't have, did any other thing they had to do, then went straight to the books and studied their brains out to pass this test, they would have passed. You might say that is asking too much of a student. But these students have put in four years; what are another couple hours a day of studying to ask?

As Ms. Hanson puts it, "(Graduation) only comes along once in a lifetime." One would think that a person would put in any amount of time necessary in order to take part in this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Did these students who failed to pass the proficiency do that? The answer is no.

Just for the record, I would like to also state that it was very gutless of the Nevada Legislature to overturn the local school board policy and let those who didn't pass the math portion of the proficiency exam walk at graduation.

It was extremely frustrating to know that I put in the time and studying necessary in order to pass the proficiency and walk at graduation, and students who didn't give the extra effort were still allowed to walk in my and the other graduates' company.

What kind of lesson is that to the future leaders of America? That it is OK to fail the requirements of a task, but still reap the benefits?

I would hope not.

Walking at graduation is a privilege. Please, let us not take that privilege for granted by letting those who don't put forth the effort partake in it.

Josh Brekken was the senior class president of Carson High School's 2003 graduating class.


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