Alaska Editorial: Assessments must be meaningful

  • Tuesday, January 26, 2016 1:01am
  • Opinion

The following editorial first appeared in the Peninsula Clarion:

Among the bills filed for the legislative session is a measure to prohibit the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development from administering the Alaska Measures of Progress and Alaska Alternative Assessment tests given to students in school districts across the state.

The AMP test was given to Alaska students for the first time last spring, replacing previous the Standards Based Assessments used to determine academic progress for individual students, schools and school districts. State education officials determined that the SBA standards did not leave students adequately prepared for life after secondary school. According to the Department of Education and Early Development, AMP standards were vetted both by the University of Alaska and 200 state educators, and more than 900 educators reviewed the AMP questions to make sure they matched the standards the test attempts to measure.

The main concern with the AMP test, however, seems to be with the results — specifically, the fact that no one seems to know quite how to interpret them.

Results from the AMP testing were released last fall — to less than stellar reviews. The number of students deemed proficient declined significantly — something Mike Hanley, commissioner of the Department of Education and Early Development, at the time said was anticipated as school districts adapt to the more stringent standards.

However, officials with the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District, as well as other school districts around the state, have expressed concerns that the reporting of test results is not useful in driving instructional decisions.

As school district Superintendent Sean Dusek put it in a November email to the Clarion regarding a request to delay the next round of testing, “It makes no sense to take a test if results aren’t useful for instructional decisions.”

Indeed, the $25 million the state is paying for a five-year contract is a lot of money for something educators aren’t finding useful.

Federal law mandates statewide assessments, and there is value in being able to gauge academic progress across a broad spectrum of students. We don’t particularly like seeing politicians get involved with determining academic curriculum, but we do want the Legislature to ensure that the state’s money is being spent wisely.

When students sit down to take the test this spring, their results should be meaningful. A standardized test isn’t the only measure of academic progress, but it should be a useful one.

More in Opinion

Web
Have something to say?

Here’s how to add your voice to the conversation.

An array of stickers awaits voters on Election Day 2022. (Clarise Larson / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The case for keeping the parties from controlling our elections

Next month Alaskans will participate in the second open primary under the… Continue reading

(City and Borough of Juneau photo)
My Turn: ‘Ship-free Saturdays’ will nullify progress made toward controlling cruise ship impacts

Alaska’s wildness and communities are what draw people to this incredible part… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: School board recalls a vote of no-confidence?

While four previous columns in the Empire have expressed concerns about efforts… Continue reading

The U.S. Supreme Court in Washington on Tuesday. The court granted an unprecedented expansion of executive power, worrying the country’s allies. (Tierney L. Cross/The New York Times)
Opinion: A gift-wrapped Supreme Court decision for Republicans

On Monday, U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan gave us another example of his… Continue reading

The Assembly Room at Independence Hall in Philadelphia, where the original U.S. Constitutional Convention took place. (Antonie Taveneaux / CC BY-SA 3.0)
Opinion: Let’s celebrate our country this Fourth of July

On July 4, 1776, a year after the outbreak of the American… Continue reading

Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. board members, staff and advisors meet Oct. 30, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The concerns of reasonable Alaskans isn’t ‘noise’

It’s been two months since Alaska Landmine published leaked emails that suggest… Continue reading

Lt. Gov. Nancy Dahlstrom addresses the crowd during an inaugural celebration for her and Gov. Mike Dunleavy at Elizabeth Peratrovich Hall on Jan. 20, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The many truths Dahlstrom will deny

“Now more than ever, we need real conservative leadership in Washington to… Continue reading

A person departs Bartlett Regional Hospital on July 26, 2023. (Mark Sabbatini / Juneau Empire file photo)
Opinion: The importance of a strong, independent community hospital

Juneau’s city-owned Bartlett Regional Hospital (BRH) is in the news, presenting our… Continue reading

(Juneau Empire file photo)
Letter: Disappointed by JAHC director’s opposition to Ship-Free Saturdays

As a member of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, I was… Continue reading