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Alaska faces no penalties after canceling standardized testing earlier this year

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: November 24, 2016
  • Published November 24, 2016

The U.S. Department of Education has granted Alaska a waiver from its standardized testing requirements for the 2015-16 school year, according to an announcement last week from the state Department of Education and Early Development.

Alaska had canceled its statewide standardized test in April 2016, only a few days into the testing window, amid major technical problems, including the severing of a fiber optic cable at the University of Kansas, where Alaska's testing provider was located. The accidental cutting of the cable by construction workers on March 29 shut down internet service at the university and interrupted testing in Alaska. When testing resumed two days later, the system crashed — twice, according to the state Department of Education.

Susan McCauley, Alaska's interim education commissioner at the time, canceled testing altogether on April 1. The state asked the federal government for a retroactive waiver from two federal requirements: that states annually measure student achievement in grades 3 through 8 and once in high school, and that achievement data be reported. If states do not meet the requirements, the federal government can choose to withhold funding.

Alaska's education department said last week that the U.S. Department of Education waived both requirements for 2015-16 on the condition that Alaska administer a standardized test during the current school year.

The state department has previously said that it hopes to have a contract with a new test vendor in place by Dec. 1 and that students will have a new standardized test to take in spring 2017.

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