State asks feds for waiver after testing failure

With the school year over and no statewide test to show for it, Alaska education officials are sending something akin to an “out sick” note to the federal government.

They’re putting together a waiver request to send to the U.S. Department of Education to avoid penalties for failing to meet federal testing requirements this past school year.

The state Department of Education and Early Development continues its claim that technical failures by the testing agency Achievement and Assessment Institute caused students statewide to miss out on standardized testing, thereby causing the state to fail to meet federal requirements.

All states must annually test third through eighth graders, and at least once in high school, on language arts and mathematics assessments, according to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. Fourth, eighth and 10th graders must also complete a science achievement measurement.

Eric Fry, an information officer for the state education department, said the state could be fined for missing the assessment, but he’s hopeful a waiver will sidestep the penalty.

Students tried to take the electronic version of the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) in early April, but screens went blank across the state when a fiber optic cable was severed in Kansas where the test is managed. Alaska’s Director of Assessment and Accountability Margaret MacKinnon said educators tried administering the test again later in the week after the Kansas institute tried to fix all the glitches — no sound, questions out of sequence, and answers not being saved. In the end, Susan McCauley, the education department’s interim commissioner, said she was not confident students could complete the test without more interruptions. McCauley decided to sever ties with the testing institute.

This was only the second year students faced the AMP test, and it was in its final year because state officials decided it wasn’t the best measurement of success.

Fry said a precedent exists for states facing these types of testing issues.

“We’re not the only state to go through something like this,” Fry said.

During the 2014-15 school year, Nevada couldn’t complete statewide testing, also because of technology issues, and sent a waiver in January to federal authorities. The waiver was granted two months later.

Alaska education officials plan to send a waiver sometime after July 7. In the meantime, public comment on the waiver request can be sent

MacKinnon said the state will also stay busy during the waiver process reviewing proposals for a new test that students can expect to take in the spring of 2017.

More in News

Aurora forecast for the week of Nov. 27

These forecasts are courtesy of the University of Alaska Fairbanks’ Geophysical Institute… Continue reading

(Michael Penn / Juneau Empire file photo)
Police calls for Monday, Dec. 4, 2023

This report contains public information from law enforcement and public safety agencies.

The Juneau School District is entangled in a dispute with the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development about supplemental funds the city provides for what the district calls non-instructional purposes such as after-school programs and pupil transportation. (Jonson Kuhn / Juneau Empire file photo)
State seeks to change rules for ‘local contribution’ funds to school districts beyond the ‘cap’

Education department abandons challenge under existing state law to Juneau, other districts.

A chart shows the proposed plans for each of the Alaska Marine Highway System’s nine ferries next summer under a schedule open for public comment until Dec. 19. (Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities)
Proposed ferry schedule for next summer looks a lot like this year’s — with one possible big exception

Cross-Gulf sailings will resume if enough crew hired; AMHS begins two-week public comment period.

Ron’s Apothecary Shoppe, located at the south end of the Mendenhall Mall, is closing at the end of the day Wednesday, leaving Juneau with one remaining independent pharmacy. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire)
Closure of Ron’s Apothecary Shoppe reflects nationwide battle over prescription drug prices

Policymakers: “Middlemen” between drugmakers and retailers pocket profits to detriment of consumers.

This symbol is inside of the Alaska Department of Corrections office on Sept. 7, 2022, in Douglas. (Photo by Lisa Phu/Alaska Beacon)
Alaska Police Standards Council turns down plan to lower hiring age of corrections officers — for now

The Alaska Police Standards Council voted down a regulation change that would… Continue reading

Rep. David Eastman, R-Wasilla, right, and former Rep. Christopher Kurka, R-Wasilla, saw ethics complaints against them dismissed on Nov. 29. (Photos by James Brooks/Alaska Beacon)
Committee dismisses complaints that two Alaska lawmakers committed ethics violations

The body charged with policing the ethics of members of the Alaska… Continue reading

A bus parks outside the entrance of Foodland IGA during the Southeast Alaska Food Bank’s annual Caring is Sharing Food Drive on Nov. 18. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
SNAP benefits backlog surges past 12,000 applicants again due to technical, staffing woes

State reportedly cleared year-long 14,000-person backlog, only to have new crisis erupt.

Most Read