Alaska will pursue new statewide educational assessment options, again
By MARY KAUFFMAN
January 28, 2016
The new Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) assessment was first administered in the Spring of 2015. Beginning in Spring 2005, the Standards Based Assessment (SBA) was instituted for grades 3 through 9 replacing the Benchmark used for many years at grades 3, 6, and 8, and cut scores were reestablished in 2005 for the new SBA exams. The Standards Based Assessment was a test based on Alaska state standards and compliant with state and federal statutes and administered for the final time in spring 2014.
According to the Alaska Department of Education, while the first administration of the new computer-based assessment went smoothly last spring, multiple issues since then have resulted in increasing frustration among Alaskan educators. These issues included delayed reports, reports needing to be corrected, and an insufficient level of information regarding student performance. The Alaska Department of Education say that although they have been engaged in problem-solving with school districts to improve the 2016 AMP administration and reports, there have been a growing lack of confidence among educators statewide in the assessment.
The recent passage of the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) by Congress and signed by President Obama provides new flexibility to states in designing their assessment system. “I believe that Alaska needs to take full advantage of the opportunity the new ESSA provides,” said Commissioner Hanley, “and I believe time is of the essence for moving in a direction that better serves Alaska’s students.”
In order to meet current state and federal requirements, the Alaska Department of Education said it will be necessary for the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) assessment to be given again this spring (2016). However, the Alaska Department of Education noted they will immediately begin collaborating with stakeholders to determine the assessment approach that will work best for Alaska’s students, and to inform a request-for-proposal process.
“I sincerely appreciate the efforts of Alaskan educators in helping to develop the AMP assessment,” said Commission Hanley, “and I am confident that the lessons learned from AMP will serve us well as we move forward together.”
The Alaska Measures of Progress assessment was originally designed for Alaska and its standards, which prepare students to enter postsecondary training and education without needing remediation in English and math.
Although there has been increasing frustration among Alaskan educators over the assessment, over 900 Alaskan educators reviewed the test questions prior to implementation to be sure the assessment questions adequately measured the state’s standards, were free of bias, and were appropriate for Alaskan students. Test questions are only about reading, writing, and math.
According to previous information provided by the Alaska Department of Education, the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) is not a pass-fail test. It is an assessment that provides information to students, parents, and schools to show personal growth and whole-school information so the public can see how their public schools are doing. Students’ scores place them in one of four performance levels, none of which represents failure. According to the Alaska Department of Education, AMP is not a high-stakes test. Results don’t affect grades, graduation, or promotion from one grade to the next.
The results of the October 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) - also known as The Nation’s Report Card - showed that Alaska is among 13 states with increases in grade 4 reading. Alaska’s grade-4 reading score increased by 3 points, from 209 to 213, but is not statistically significantly different from the 2003 score of 212, the first time the NAEP reading assessment was administered in Alaska. Alaska’s lowest grade-4 reading score was 208 in 2011.
Although Alaska’s fourth graders showed progress in reading from 2013 to 2015 on the latest Nation’s Report Card, 2015 Mathematics and Reading, Alaska students had no other statistically significant changes for grade-8 reading or for grade-4 and grade-8 mathematics.
A new Request For Proposals (RFP) to replace the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) assessment will be released by the Alaska Department of Education.
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