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Vendor for English, Math, and Science Student Assessments Selected


December 05, 2016
Monday PM

(SitNews) The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development has selected Data Recognition Corp. (DRC) as its vendor for statewide student assessments in English language arts, math, and science.

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The assessments from Data Recognition Corp. will first be administered in spring 2017. Students will take the English language arts and math assessments in grades 3 to 10, and the science assessments in grades 4, 8, and 10. School districts can choose to give the assessments on paper or by computer.

The U.S. Department of Education had waived, after the fact, the federal requirement for Alaska to administer English language arts, mathematics, and science assessments in the 2015-2016 school year. Also waived was the federal requirement to publicly report data from 2015-2016 assessments.

The U.S. Department of Education granted the waiver on the condition that Alaska administer assessments in 2016-2017. The state was not able to complete the assessments last school year because of significant technical problems with administering the computer-based tests.

These end-of-year assessments inform policy makers and the public, including parents, about how well students are meeting Alaska’s academic standards; provide data to improve schools and to close achievement gaps; and ensure equity in educational opportunity for all students. School districts will continue to use classroom assessments throughout the school year to monitor student progress and inform instruction.

“The statewide assessments are just one piece of a balanced accountability system,” Commissioner Dr. Michael Johnson said. “They give parents, educators, policy makers and citizens information on how well the public education system is working. Additionally, an effective statewide assessment system is an essential part of student learning. Our new assessments will maximize the purpose of a statewide assessment and minimize the amount of time needed to take the test.”

The department and Data Recognition Corp. are negotiating a contract for the current school year, with options for annual renewals through the 2020-2021 school year. The federal government contributes approximately $3.5 million a year toward the cost of Alaska’s statewide assessments. The state pays the remainder of costs. The department chose DRC, which is headquartered in Maple Grove, Minn., from among six applicants. The five other vendors were Measured Progress, Measurement Inc., PARCC, Pearson, and Questar.

“This assessment is one piece of the accountability system that will offer a high-level picture of how schools are doing,” said Sean Dusek, Superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and president of the Alaska Superintendents Association. “There will be growing pains in any transition, but we trust the Commissioner and state department on their selection and believe the appropriate support will be provided to implement this assessment. We also believe that minimal instructional time will be necessary to implement this assessment so that we can maintain our focus on meeting individual student needs while still being accountable to state and federal oversight.”

In choosing a vendor, the department considered comments from stakeholders representing Alaska educational organizations, superintendents, district test coordinators, and teachers. The department repeatedly talked with vendors about their proposals; considered the vendors’ budgets and technical proposals; and checked references from states in which the vendors have experience. The stakeholders were asked to rate vendors on their capability of providing assessments that meet Alaska’s needs. The department also looked at whether vendors offered individual student reports that are easy to read and understand; find the right balance between words and graphics; and provide information that is meaningful to parents and educators.

“The process that Commissioner Johnson led was transparent and very inclusive. Multiple education stakeholders participated and focused on meeting requirements while respecting local control and efforts,” said Dr. Lisa Skiles Parady, Executive Director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators.

“He threaded the needle between fulfilling federal mandates while sustaining what works best across Alaska. In doing so, Commissioner Johnson made major headway in developing confidence across the spectrum of those who work day in and day out in education -- parents, teachers, school board members and educators. We are confident as we move to implementation that the Commissioner and his staff will do what is necessary to support school districts,” Dr. Parady said.

“I’d like to thank the department for being thorough in their reflective process in selecting an assessment that is both purposeful and less time-consuming for our students,” said Amy Jo Meiners, the Alaska Teacher of the Year in 2016.

“NEA-Alaska and our 13,000 members would like to thank Commissioner Johnson for working directly with educators during this selection process,” said Tim Parker, president of NEA-Alaska. “This commitment to working together is truly in the best interest of students and will lead to more learning in the classroom every day.”

Data Recognition Corp. currently delivers Alaska’s assessments in English language proficiency for English language learners who are not yet able to communicate fluently in English. From 2005 to 2014, DRC was the department’s contractor for statewide assessments in reading, writing, and math, and for science assessments through 2015.

Additionally, Alaska will work with tribal organizations and other stakeholders to develop a plan to administer assessments that are written in languages other than English, particularly Native languages.


On the Web:

A six-minute video that explains the purpose of Alaska’s statewide assessments



Editing by Mary Kauffman, SitNews


Source of News:

Alaska Department of Education & Early Childhood Development



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