State school board approves tougher test standards

The Alaska School Board has approved tough new grading standards for the Alaska Measures of Progress standardized tests.

The tests, issued to students in grades 3 to 10, replace the state’s older testing system, but when results reach parents later this fall, they may bring a shock — the state projects only about one-third of students will be rated proficient.

Those projections were released in August and were contingent upon the school board approving a grading scale that teachers recommended. Meeting on Friday, the school board followed the teachers’ recommendation.

In a public comment period before the final vote, superintendents across the state pleaded by teleconfrence to vote against the change.

Deena Paramo of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District said the state needs to tone back its standardized testing. Others offering public testimony echoed that sentiment.

Of the board’s seven voting members, three voted yes, three were absent, and one voted no. The board needed a majority of present members to approve the scores.

School and individual scores were expected to be released Monday, but staff at the Department of Education said the release was unexpectedly delayed.

The tougher test mirrors others instituted across the country in an effort to make standardized tests more accurately reflect real-world achievement.

The state’s previous testing system found most students proficient even as half of incoming University of Alaska freshmen required remedial classes and one-fifth of Alaskans taking the ASVAB military test failed to meet minimum standards.

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