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Alaska changes school testing consortium

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Posted: Tuesday, January 14, 2014 2:53 pm | Updated: 12:12 pm, Wed Jan 15, 2014.

FAIRBANKS - Alaska announced its plan Tuesday to pull out of the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and hire a new group, Assessment & Achievement Institute to create its English Language Arts and Mathematics assessments.

The state had been a member of the consortium, one of two splitting more than $300 million in federal funding to create state assessments, since April 2013. Forty-two states had signed up as members of the two consortia, Smarter Balanced and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, prior to Alaska's departure brought the number down to 41.

Instead of using the assessment being created by Smarter Balanced, Alaska will go with one tailored specifically to its new state standards, which vary slightly from the Common Core State Standards on which the consortium's test is based.

"What we were looking at was that we would find a vendor who could build an assessment strictly on our standards and that would include our educators," said Erik McCormick, director of assessment with the state Department of Education and Early Development.

After requesting proposals from vendors to create or implement an assessment in Alaska, the state selected Assessment & Achievement Institute, an organization with the University of Kansas. The state had already been working with another University of Kansas group, DLM Consortium, to create a new Alternate Assessment for students with severe cognitive disabilities.

Online practice tests will be available to school districts throughout the state in fall of 2014, according to McCormick, and the summative test should begin to be administered in spring of 2015.

The contract with the institute is projected to cost the state $5 million each year for five years, a number McCormick said is roughly consistent with the cost of the state's previous test, the Standards Based Assessment. Following the state's selection of the Institute, other bidders will have 10 days to protest the selection.

Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.

A previous version of this article stated Alaska would receive pilot tests from the group in Fall of 2014. It has been amended to say the state will receive practice tests.

It has also clarified the groups with the University of Kansas and both groups' affiliation with the state of Alaska.

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