Lawmakers, superintendents and testing bosses with a burning desire to take the state's high school graduation test, your chance is here.

The state Office of Education is inviting the folks in charge to put their prose and polynomials prowess to the test. It promised in a memo to lawmakers Wednesday that scores on the Utah Basic Skills Competency Test will remain confidential.

But there is a catch — participants have to take a survey afterward, sharing their thoughts, feelings and impressions of the assessment.

"If they're going to take the time to take it . . . I would like to gain from that experience as well," state assessment director Judy Park said.

The UBSCT aims to ensure those earning a high school diploma have a certain set of basic skills. A group of employers a few years ago said high school graduates had poor writing and math skills, and called for reforms.

All students, beginning with the Class of 2006, must pass the UBSCT's reading, math and writing sections in order to get a basic high school diploma.

Basically, they have five chances to do it, beginning in the spring of their sophomore year. Students who take the test three times but don't pass can receive an alternative completion diploma; those who neither pass nor try three times may receive a certificate of completion.

The interim committee last month reviewed UBSCT details and shared concerns that one in six high school juniors still haven't passed it, according to state reports.

There, Rep. Jim Ferrin, R-Orem, asked to take the UBSCT, and invited colleagues to join him.

The state is offering the test on three possible testing dates in July and August. Invitations are to be sent out by the end of this month.

The exercise will cost the education office about $25 per test, said state associate superintendent Patrick Ogden. "We'll pick it up," he said of the tab, and could cover costs of at least all 104 state lawmakers.

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Answer sheets would be scanned and scored by state contractor Measured Progress and returned to the test-taker.

It's uncertain how many people will jump at the chance to see how rusty they've become, or sharp they remain. While Ferrin is probably up for it, and Park said she'd take it again, Utah School Superintendents Association executive director Gary Cameron said he's not heard anything about it.

"I don't have any idea whether superintendents would be interested or not in taking it," Cameron said. "I don't know what it would provide, one way or the other."


E-mail: jtcook@desnews.com

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