UPDATE: The Alaska Department of Education has canceled the AMP tests completely for this spring.
In a press release, Dr. Susan McCauley, Interim Education Commissioner said, “The purpose of assessment is to provide valid, useful results. To have valid results, all students must be given the test under the same conditions. At this point, some students have been interrupted by online connectivity problems while they tested, in some cases repeatedly. We cannot with certainty say that this year’s assessments will provide an accurate reflection of all students’ knowledge and performance.”
KHNS will have a story next week with more details.
The state of Alaska has suspended its state-mandated testing because of ongoing problems with the online assessments. The issues have caused frustration for the Haines School District.
Haines junior high and high school students sat down at computers March 30 to take the Alaska Measures of Progress exams when they ran into problems like this.
“We’ve attempted to test a couple times and kids get timed out or the test just stops,” said interim superintendent Rich Carlson. “It continues to be just a fiasco.”
The problem comes all the way from the University of Kansas, where the testing vendor the Achievement and Assessment Institute is based. The testing shut down Tuesday when a construction crew severed a fiber optic cable.
On Thursday, some districts tried again, only to run into more problems with the vendor’s system. That’s when the Alaska Department of Education decided to suspend testing statewide.
“It was going on and off and that’s just too disruptive to the school day,” department spokesman Eric Fry said. “The students have to leave class and go to a room where the computers are and they sit down to take the test and if it’s constantly being disrupted it becomes an enormous waste of time and we cant ask the teachers and the students to put up with something that starts and stops like that. So the interim commissioner Susan McCauley decided to tell districts to just suspend testing.”
Haines superintendent Carlson says all the testing that was scheduled for early April will be put on hold until there is a guarantee from the testing vendor that the problems are fixed. He says the disruptions in the test have been frustrating for teachers and students.
“It’s a scramble on everybody’s part to keep up with what’s going on. And the parents as well. We’ve tried to indicate that this is a pretty big deal and to make certain that your child has proper rest and gets a good meal and all those sorts of the things.”
The tests measures student achievement in math, English Language Arts, and science. After the first implementation of the AMP tests last year, there were multiple delays in getting scores from the testing vendor. When the results did come out, there were complaints that the score information wasn’t detailed enough to help teachers.
In January, the Department of Education announced that the state would abandon the AMP tests. But it was too late to change testing for the current school year. And now, the problems continue.
“The AMP test has become sort of infamous, hasn’t it?” Carlson said.
He says he’s concerned about testing scheduling changes, because a lot of students will be traveling for events like Art Fest.
In Skagway, Superintendent Josh Coughran says the AMP problems have not affected students. That’s because the district fortuitously scheduled testing for later in April, starting on the 14th.
Coughran says he’ll wait and see what happens. Hopefully, the issues with the test will be resolved by the time students are scheduled to take them.
KFSK’s Joe Viechnicki contributed to this report.