Unpopular AMP tests to be replaced

Alaska Measures of Progress [AMP] test scores released last fall disappointed many school districts. Now, state education commissioner Mike Hanley says he’s eliminating the tests for 2017 while beginning a requests for proposals process for a replacement for the student assessment exams.

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In a surprise statement late Tuesday night, Alaska education commissioner Mike Hanley said the Alaska Measures of Progress tests would be dropped for the 2016-2017 school year while the state considers “new assessment structures.”

Hanley says the new federal law, the Each Student Succeeds Act, [ESSA] allows changes in annual testing procedures. He said Friday that those changes could work for Alaska.

“With ESSA, which isn’t in effect yet, with ESSA it allows us to have either a summative, or a series of interim assessments which can be combined into a summative. If that’s where we choose to go, that works for me as well.”

The state had contracted with Kansas-based Achievement and Assessment Institute in 2014 to develop and administer the computer-based tests. Glitches within AAI caused long delays in delivering last year’s test scores to the state.

Test scores released last November showed about half of the Alaska students tested in spring of 2015 did not meet new standards for English language and math. And educators across the state complained that the scores did not indicate in which areas of the curriculum students lacked proficiency.

The outcry has resonated in Juneau, with one bill, HB 232, aimed at eliminating the tests entirely.

Rep. Jim Colver, a Palmer Republican and sponsor of the bill, is claiming victory on hearing the Department of Education’s announcement. Colver says elimination of the AMP test requires the education department to build an assessment model from the bottom up.

“So I think that that is the most important takeaway. Whatever language we use in statute, meaningful information on an assessment and quick results,” he says.

Colver says computer-based tests should require immediate results.

“That was one of the first red flags that went up. Six to eight months later, we finally got the data, ” Colver says.

The legislator calls the AMPs a “pretty expensive experiment” at a cost $67 dollars per student. He says his bill gives voice to school districts that were concerned about AMP’s failings, but now legislative action is not needed. He did not say he is withdrawing the bill.

Commissioner Hanley says it is too late to change AMP testing for the current school year.  The tests are scheduled for March and April, and are mandated under federal and state law.

Hanley says that standards tests are necessary to shed light on the students in need of help. He says he fears going back to a time when failing schools were not recognized, and students that were not doing well were hidden. He says the education department will begin work immediately to determine the assessment approach that will work best for Alaska’s students while beginning the requests for proposals process.