FAIRBANKS — The state of Alaska will pay $25 million during the next five years to a University of Kansas institute for the creation and implementation of new standardized tests for Alaska students.
The Achievement and Assessment Institute at the University of Kansas announced the deal Wednesday. Part of the funding will go toward the creation of the test, though much of it will be spent administering the test to Alaska’s approximately 77,000 third- through 10th-grade students.
The assessments will be called the Alaska Measures of Progress. They will be designed to test students based on the Alaska English language arts and mathematics standards, which the State Board of Education adopted in 2012. The board adopted those new standards after receiving a waiver to the federal No Child Left Behind law.
The state selected the institute to create the tests in January when it left the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group of about two dozen states creating assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards.
Marianne Perie, the project manager in charge of Alaska’s test creation, said the institute is charging the state an average of about $5 million per year through 2020. Though test creation is a portion of the cost, Perie said the majority of the money will go to administering the tests.
“Very little of this actually goes to test construction,” Perie said.
Part of the reason the tests cost so much to administer, according to Perie, is because Alaska is not yet capable of giving all students online tests.
“Right now Alaska is not ready to go 100 percent online so the cost that will start out very high and we’re hoping to be able to decrease over time is the paper and pencil cost,” Perie said. “(Online) once we set it up it doesn’t cost anything to score. The hand scoring costs something.”
Of the $5 million estimated for each year, between $1.5 million and $2 million will go to hand scoring paper and pencil tests.
The institute has already creating assessments for the state of Kansas. Perie said they have been using those assessments as a starting point since the two states have similar standards. Both states have standards that are based in part on the Common Core.
The plan, according to Perie, is to take the Kansas tests and tweak them to match the Alaska standards as well as Alaska’s cultural differences. The institute has planned several workshops for the summer where it has invited educators from Alaska to vet portions of the test for sensitivity and relevance and to work on their own passages that may appear on the tests.
The institute will administer the first summative — end of year — assessments at the end of the 2014-15 school year. It plans to begin offering progress measuring assessments in the fall and winter to interested school districts by the 2015-16 school year.
More information on the assessments can be found at www.akassess
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.