The State Board of Education adopted standards for the Alaska Measures of Progress and Alaska Alternate Assessment tests Friday.
The approved regulations set the range of scores within each achievement level for the two standardized tests given to all third through tenth grade students in for the first time in spring 2015. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District along with the state’s 53 other public school districts soon will receive individual results.
“We are supportive of any assessment system that helps to effectively track and monitor student progress toward meeting learning standards,” said school district spokesperson Pegge Erkeneff. “However, since we have not even seen our district score, school results and student reports, it is too early to tell if AMP is the best assessment product for doing this.”
What the school district does know, Erkeneff said, is that the test is “raising expectations” in English and mathematics. Upon receiving the results, it is important to remember “student achievement has not declined,” and the first results are setting a baseline, she said.
Other school districts expressed direct disagreement with the test at the verbal public comment prior to Friday’s special worksession. Nearly 20 superintendents spoke against the state decision to use the AMP test, designed by the Achievement and Assessment Institute at the University of Kansas under a state contract, as a way to determine whether or not a student meets state standards.
Superintendent for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District Deena Paramo was one of the first to speak.
“My heart and my head tell me it’s not the right thing to do for our children,” Paramo said.
Paramo said the test could not be used as a way to improve classroom instruction, but rather is “an arbitrary comparison between communities.” She asked the state to slow down on standardized testing, which takes time away of the classroom and money from the state and school districts to administer.
Superintendent of the Saint Mary’s School District David Herbert echoed Paramo’s concerns on the ability of the test to be used as a tool to assist teachers, and therefore students and parents.
He said the results that school districts will be receiving in two weeks will be a vague set of data.
The testing company “will not be able to provide how students performed on specific standards,” Herbert said. “We find that to be simply unacceptable.”
Commissioner of the Department of Education and Early Development Mike Hanley said it will take some time for the assessment to reach maturity. There will be various tools for teachers developed within the next year that will help better address individual student needs based on the test results.
The state board spent time Friday debating whether or not to adopt the regulations.
“If these aren’t adopted today then nothing goes out,” Hanley said. “We still have the responsibility to go forward in the spring with testing.”
Board member John Harmon said he was troubled by the reliability of the test as tool to help school districts following the testimony from the nearly 20 superintendents that spoke against it.
However, “despite potential flaws,” he suggested moving forward with the regulations and once the results are released, to look into necessary revisions to the administration of the test.
At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Sean Dusek said the individual results are expected by Oct. 19.
Erkeneff said the school district pulled off the first round of testing last spring fairly flawlessly. She said if the released results are lower than expected, “don’t get discouraged.”
“As teachers and students gain more experience in the standards, scores on AMP will rise,” Erkeneff said. “Other states that adopted high standards have seen this.”
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