FAIRBANKS — The state of Alaska is retroactively asking the federal government to waive its standardized testing requirement after the state failed to administer its statewide assessments during the 2015-16 school year.
The first few days of testing in Alaska were so plagued by technical difficulties that four days into the testing window the state Department of Education and Early Development decided to stop trying to administer the tests at all. The 2015-16 school year would have marked the second administration of a new standardized test developed for Alaska by the Achievement and Assessment Institute at the University of Kansas.
The tests — the Alaska Measures of Progress — were first implemented during the 2014-15 school year. That year, the Measures of Progress became the first computer-based assessments to be administered statewide in Alaska.
The federal government requires states to administer standardized tests to measure student achievement in grade school. States are then required to share the achievement data on state and local “report cards” that are submitted to the U.S. Department of Education.
Because only a fraction of students successfully completed sections of the tests before the state ceased testing, Alaska has no statewide student achievement data for the 2015-16 school year.
“In addition,” a news release from the state Department of Education states, “the state has substantial doubts about whether students’ answers represent credible data because districts reported that many students experienced interruptions and other test administration problems and often were distracted, frustrated, or no longer took the test seriously.”
In 2014, the state signed a five-year, $25 million contract with the institute to create and administer the Measures of Progress tests. The tests were meant to align with Alaska’s new state standards. The next autumn, however, the institute had trouble providing timely, accurate testing results to the state, leading to calls for a new vendor.
In January 2016, the state announced it would pursue a new statewide assessment. At the time, then Commissioner of Education Mike Hanley told critics it likely would not be possible to replace the measures of progress until the 2016-17 school year because of federal testing requirements.
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.