FAIRBANKS — This spring, students in grades three through 10 will be the first to take the new Alaska Measures of Progress test, but before they can do that, the test’s creators are asking students to help them test the tests.
The state Department of Education and Early Development is working with the group that’s creating the assessment — the University of Kansas’ Achievement and Assessment Institute — to make sure it will be ready when students begin the testing period March 30.
To do that, the department and institute are asking school districts to have students sign on in the last week of January and take an informal test created specifically to push the system to its limit. It’s also meant to help individual districts determine if their local infrastructure is strong enough to handle the online tests.
The institute ran a similar test of its system, the Kansas Interactive Testing Engine, in its home state on Oct. 28, calling it Break K.I.T.E. Day. On that day, about 130,000 Kansas students logged in to test the system, a fraction of the total who will eventually take the real test.
During the actual testing period in the spring, about 80,000 students in Alaska will take the tests, which will be spread out over a five-week period instead of all on a single day. Kansas tests about five times as many students as Alaska, according to Erik McCormick, the department’s director of assessment, accountability and information management.
On the chosen day, students from Alaska and Kansas will log in to give the system its final large-scale test before the official assessment period. The test they receive won’t count toward school ratings or teacher performance evaluations. It will consist simply of questions with high-bandwidth elements such as text to speech and graphics that put greater strain on connectivity, according to Marianne Perie, the executive director.
The system test that will include Alaska students will take place some time in late January to give students time to readjust from winter break, but the exact date still hasn’t been determined.
McCormick said the state feels it’s important to test the system but also doesn’t want students to miss too much instruction time for a test that doesn’t count for anything.
“We just want to be really sensitive to anything that’s going to impact any instruction going on,” McCormick said, “but we also see value in the more the kids see the technology and the new devices the more comfortable they’re going to be.”
The institute will continue to work with Alaska school districts to operate small-scale local system tests until the real testing period this spring.
Contact staff writer Weston Morrow at 459-7520. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMschools.