After an unexpected delay, the results of new statewide standardized tests were released this week. Third through tenth graders in Alaska took the new Alaska Measures of Progress exams in spring of 2015. Education officials say the AMP tests have more rigorous standards than the previous assessments. That challenge is reflected in the scores. Statewide, less than half of students met standards in English Language Arts and Math.
Student scores are scaled into four achievement levels. A four is the highest score, a one is the lowest. Students who score a three or four meet state education standards. Students who score a one or two partially meet standards.
In Haines, less than half of the 140 students tested met standards in both English Language Arts and math. According to data posted online by the State Department of Education, about 49 percent of Haines students were proficient in English and about 34 percent were proficient in math.
“I’m not displeased with Haines’ results,” said Haines Interim Superintendent Rich Carlson.
He says the results are about what he expected. The scores are lower than what Haines students achieved on the previous tests, called the Standards Based Assessments, or SBAs.
“To compare these results to any of the previous tests simply is a bogus comparison,” Carlson said. “But what is a fair comparison is how we compared to the rest of the state.”
In that regard, Haines did well. Out of about 73,000 students statewide, about 35 percent met standards in English and about 31 percent met standards in math. So, Haines students scored more than 10 percentage points higher in English and about three percentage points higher in math.
Skagway students also did better than the state average. In both English and math, 63 percent of 43 Skagway students met standards. Skagway Superintendent Josh Coughran declined to discuss AMP results until after he meets with his school board. But he said in an email, “What I am willing to put out there is that I am extremely proud of our students, teachers, and community for once again scoring well above the state average on each content area for each grade level of the assessment.”
It’s more difficult to determine how Klukwan School students did on AMP tests, because it’s part of the Chatham School District, which encompasses small schools in Klukwan, Angoon, Gustavus and Tenakee Springs. The scores from all of those schools are lumped together. Of the 91 Chatham students tested, about 41 percent met standards in English and about 26 percent met standards in math. Chatham Superintendent Bernie Grieve was not available for an interview.
Haines Superintendent Carlson says tests like these are supposed to give a picture of how school districts are doing.
“And then the other part of standardized tests is really to help teachers, to drive instruction,” Carlson said. “This test is less successful than the [SBAs], than most assessments.”
He says the AMP test results don’t give teachers much to work with besides ranking students one to four in how they meet state standards.
“So if you have English Language Arts for example, we used to get it broken down into vocabulary and all the subsets. The results here are not broken down at all. So it’s going to be less helpful to drive instruction.”
In a press release, the state department of education touts the rigor of the AMP tests. It says the exams have fewer multiple-choice questions and ask more of students in terms of analysis, multi-step tasks, solving problems and applying what they know to new situations.
But at least one state lawmaker doesn’t think the AMP tests are beneficial to students or teachers. Palmer Representative Jim Colver announced last week that he would draft a bill to get rid of AMP and switch Alaska to a different assessment.
Carlson says there’s a growing sentiment in the state against the AMP tests. And he’s not inclined to defend the assessment, because there have been some major problems. The release of test results was delayed multiple times because of errors on the part of the Kansas-based testing vendor. And then there’s the fact that results are not detailed in a way that he thinks will help teachers.
Carlson says it makes him wonder just how reliable the test scores are.
View detailed AMP results here: https://education.alaska.gov/tls/Assessments/AsmtVer2015/DistrictSearch.cfm