Alaska high school students no longer need national tests to graduate

Alaska's high school students no longer need to take the SAT, ACT or WorkKeys test to get their diplomas. The state law requiring the college or career readiness tests expired Thursday.

As of now, the Class of 2017 will only need to meet credit requirements to get their diplomas, said Margaret MacKinnon, director of assessment and accountability at Alaska's state education department.

For the past two school years Alaska's students had to take the SAT or ACT, two national tests that measure academic readiness and are used by college and universities, or WorkKeys, a job-skills test, to get their high school diplomas. There was no passing score — they just had to show up to take one of the three tests, MacKinnon said.

The state paid for each student to take one of the tests at a cost of about $525,000 a year, according to Eric Fry, education department spokesman.

That all ended Thursday under House Bill 44, passed by the Alaska Legislature in 2015. It repealed the testing requirements.

MacKinnon said students in the classes of 2015 and 2016 who met credit requirements but failed to take one of the three tests can still get diplomas. But they must first take the SAT, ACT or WorkKeys at their own expense. The SAT and ACT cost about $55 and the WorkKeys cost about $22, according to the education department.

Those non-diploma graduates must also fill out an application with their former school districts, submit their test score reports and pay any district fee for the diplomas.


The education department estimated that 46 Alaskans from the Class of 2015 did not get diplomas because they did not take one of the required tests. Numbers were not yet available for the Class of 2016, MacKinnon said.

The repeal of the graduation requirements Thursday is the latest change in requirements for a high school diploma. Starting in 2004, students had to pass a high school exit exam, which tested them in reading, writing and math.

The Alaska Legislature repealed that requirement in 2014 and an estimated 3,300 Alaskans became retroactively eligible for high school diplomas. The Legislature then replaced that requirement with the now-expired SAT, ACT or WorkKeys requirement.

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.