Alaska education department picks new test vendor for 2017 exam

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development has selected a Minnesota-based vendor to deliver a new statewide standardized test starting in spring 2017.

Brian Laurent, the department's data management supervisor, announced Thursday that the state had selected Data Recognition Corp. over five other interested vendors. The company administers statewide tests in five other states, he said, and has a long history of working in Alaska.

The new standardized test will replace the short-lived Alaska Measures of Progress exam, created at the University of Kansas.

Laurent said Thursday that the Alaska education department and the Minnesota company were still negotiating a contract for the 2017 exam. The state education department said in a statement that the contract will have options for annual renewals through the 2020-21 school year.

The cost for the 2017 test should not exceed $4.45 million, Laurent said. The federal government contributes about $3.5 million a year for Alaska's statewide test.

Laurent said school districts will have the option to administer the new test on paper or computer. Alaska's students in grades three through 10 will take the new English language arts and math tests in spring 2017, and students in grades four, eight and 10 will be quizzed in science.

Federal law requires that students in certain grades take standardized tests. While the Alaska Legislature passed a bill this year forbidding the state education department from requiring districts to administer a standardized test until July 2018, Laurent said that districts applying for federal funding this year agreed to federal requirements, including a standardized test.


Margaret MacKinnon, director of assessment and accountability at the Alaska education department, said Thursday that she had not heard from any superintendents planning to not participate in testing.

Data Recognition Corp. also delivers standardized tests in Wisconsin, Missouri, South Carolina, Nevada and Louisiana, Laurent said. Nevada, which has also experienced testing problems, switched to Data Recognition Corp. for its 2016 online standardized test. It reported no problems with the test, but the state said the company did not deliver individual test scores by the date agreed on in its contract, according to the Reno Gazette Journal.

Greg Bortolin, a spokesman for the Nevada education department, said Thursday that everything was eventually resolved and the state would stay with the Minnesota company for its 2017 standardized exam.

MacKinnon said the state had no concerns about Data Recognition Corp. reporting test results.

"The states that we spoke with did not raise any similar concerns, and our previous experience with DRC has been positive, so we do not have any concerns about reporting results," MacKinnon said in an email.

The state has had a strong relationship with the company, MacKinnon said, which delivered the standardized test in Alaska for a decade before the state contracted with the University of Kansas institute. The company currently delivers Alaska's tests in English language proficiency for students learning English.

This year, the state's testing window will run from March 28 to April 28.

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.