PEAKS test adds writing analysis portion

The Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools, or PEAKS, test will feature a new prompt in the English language arts section for grades four through nine this spring.

The Text-Dependent Analysis, or TDA, is a written question based on a passage, or multiple passages, read by the students, according to a release from the Alaska Department of Education.

“Students are required to provide evidence from the passage(s) to support their claims, opinions, and ideas,” the release states.

According to the release, the analysis assesses the skills that students have been learning and using in the classroom and the new questions will allow students to demonstrate their ability to interpret a passage’s meaning and provide supporting evidence for their analysis.

The department also released several guidelines for teachers and students to keep in mind when preparing a TDA response such as “organize your ideas on scratch paper” and “use precise language, a variety of sentence types, and transitions in your essay.” Students are allowed up to 5,000 characters in their response.

The addition will take effect this spring, when students across Alaska sit down to take the PEAKS test. This year’s testing will take place between March 26 and April 27.

This will be the second year that students will take the PEAKS test, which debuted across the state last year and set new standards for measuring student progress. Throughout Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, PEAKS scores were slightly ahead of the Alaska’s general numbers. Kenai Peninsula students were ahead of the statewide average in English language arts proficiency by more than 7 percent, in mathematics by about 5 percent and in science by about 4 percent, according to the district-specific PEAKS data.

This, though, still leaves a majority of students below proficiency in English and math with 53 percent below in English and 62.7 percent below proficiency in math. A majority of students, about 58 percent, met proficiency standards in science.

“PEAKS is one part of the overall picture about how well our students and schools succeed,” said Sean Dusek, superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, in a statement following the release of 2017’s district scores. “(Kenai Peninsula Borough School District) focuses on continual improvement, creating lifelong learners, and believes the shift toward a greater emphasis on problem solving skills and critical thinking will make a significant, positive difference on all assessments that are implemented in our schools.”

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