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By Dan Rudy 

State ed. department backing away from AMP test


The commissioner for the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development announced the state will be replacing its Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) assessment.

The exam was first administered during the 2014-15 school year, after being selected by the Legislature in 2012 to replace Alaska’s previous Standards Based Assessments test. Implementation of the test encountered some problems, however, and the exam proved unpopular with school districts across the state.

“The commissioner felt that there was no sense struggling with this anymore,” explained Eric Fry, an information officer for EED. “After going over issues with superintendents he felt that they lost confidence in the test.”

School boards and the Alaska Superintendents Association had expressed dissatisfaction with AMP, which 72,300 students took last year.

Fry explained the main criticism the department had received was that the test’s score reports did not provide information that could inform lessons in the classroom.

“These tests aren’t really well-designed to tell how students are doing in detail,” he said. Rather, the examination measured how well students processed information, such as interpreting technical information through reading.

Ahead of releasing the first year’s results, the EED stressed they would not be comparable to former assessments, as AMP would feature more difficult questions and a different scoring system. Last year’s results were to serve as a baseline for the AMP. It was to be the first of a five-year, $25 million commitment with the Achievement & Assessment Institute of the University of Kansas, which designed and administers the test.

This more rigorous examination was adopted in order to improve Alaskans’ post-graduation prospects. Surveys from around 2012 found roughly 20 percent of Alaskans applying for military service after high school were unable to pass the written entrance exam. Meanwhile, half of Alaskan high school graduates required some form of remedial courses when at a college or university.

When AMP scores were finally released in November after several delays, only a minority of students in the state showed proficiency in mathematics and reading comprehension. At the time, Wrangell school superintendent Patrick Mayer felt the way the results were conveyed were too general to identify areas where students needed help. He had been among the school administrators who were in favor of replacing the AMP with another statewide assessment.

“There were just continued red flags for trying to continue and repair the AMP,” Mayer commented. “I think they made the right decision in scrapping it at this point.”

Fry noted other criticisms of the test included the time it took to administer, delays in processing results and its online administration. Some districts lacked the resources to give a fully-computerized test, which Fry said could have been an additional stressor. While the test would likely improve given time, he said education commissioner Mike Hanley decided it would be best to just start anew.

Fry explained the state will need to administer the AMP once more this spring in order to comply with federal requirements under the Every Student Succeeds Act, but that EEC will soon be sending out a request for proposals. The companies and institutes who create such assessments will have the opportunity to respond with their ideas, which Alaska will have to compare and may pick an examination from.

Mayer was hopeful EEC would seek greater input from school districts about what they wanted to see in a future assessment.

“There’s going to be a significant solicitation of input on that,” he said.


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