Education

In 2022 statewide math, science and language arts assessments, Alaska students largely fell below proficiency

Huffman Elementary

Most Alaska students tested in statewide assessments in spring 2022 were not proficient in math, language arts and science.

The two assessments, the AK STAR and the Alaska Science Assessment, were distributed to a range of students from elementary to high school.

While the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted learning, the “results are unacceptable,” Department of Education and Early Development acting commissioner Heidi Teshner said in a statement.

“However, the truth is that Alaska’s results were unacceptable before the pandemic,” she said.

Here’s how students scored:

• 70% of students tested were not proficient in English language arts.

• 77% of students tested were not proficient in math.

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• 62% of students tested were not proficient in science, which included fifth, eighth and tenth graders.

• Some grade levels fared particularly poorly — 81.5% of ninth graders and 87.6% of eighth graders were not proficient in math.

• In the Anchorage School District, 66% of students were not proficient in English language arts and 72.85% were not proficient in math.

The state’s educators are contending with two years of learning loss caused by trauma that stems from the pandemic, Lisa Parady, executive director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators, said in a written statement. “The direct crisis of the pandemic has been worsened at every level by inadequate access to the internet and crisis-level educator turnover,” she said.

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“To look at and add undue meaning to test scores now would be shortsighted when the focus of Alaska’s schools must be squarely on growth and recovery,” Parady said.

She added, “teachers and students across Alaska go to school and work hard every day. We can’t let these (mostly expected) results distract us from acknowledging the grit, curiosity, and commitment they bring to this task every day.”

The results were no surprise and indicative of how the pandemic affected student learning, said Tom Klaameyer, president of the National Education Association affiliate in Alaska. The assessments will help identify gaps in student knowledge and skills and can inform future instruction, he said.

“You know, too many times, I think people were like, ‘Oh, we’re past the pandemic,’” he said. “And frankly, we are still dealing with it in so many ways, and even if we’re in a period of recovery, it’s gonna take some time. So a balance between a little bit of patience and grace and understanding, but also, you know, knowing that we have our work cut out for us.”

Participation in the assessments varied among schools and students, with an especially low number of the state’s correspondence school students taking part, so education officials cautioned the results don’t represent all Alaska students.

The AK STAR assessment is new this year, as the state had previously used the PEAKS assessment, and the two tests are designed differently. Results from the two “cannot be directly compared without caveat,” according to the state’s education department.

Even still, before the pandemic and use of the AK STAR assessments, in 2018, half of the students who took statewide assessments didn’t meet grade-level standards.

Meanwhile, the results of a national learning progress assessment called the National Assessment of Education Progress, released last month showed that Alaska reading scores stayed the same as they were pre-pandemic, while math scores were down.

Districts statewide have until Dec. 9 to distribute student-level results of the AK STAR and Alaska Science Assessment to students, families and teachers. The Anchorage School District plans to distribute those results via Parent Connect on Dec. 2, according to a spokesperson.

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Morgan Krakow

Morgan Krakow is a general assignment reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She is a 2019 graduate of the University of Oregon and spent the summer of 2019 as a reporting intern on the general assignment desk of The Washington Post. Contact her at mkrakow@adn.com.

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