Alaska education department will replace new statewide standardized test

Alaska's Department of Education announced Tuesday that it will get rid of the new statewide standardized test less than a year after students in grades 3 through 10 took the exam for the first time.

Alaska Education Commissioner Mike Hanley said in a statement sent around 7 p.m. that the department will issue another request for proposals to replace the test, called the Alaska Measures of Progress, in time for the 2016-17 school year.

"After careful consideration, I believe that it is in the best interest of Alaska to consider new assessment structures that better align to instructional needs and are allowable due to changes in federal law," Hanley said in the statement.

In 2014, the state announced that it would engage in a roughly $25 million, five-year contract with the Achievement and Assessment Institute at the University of Kansas to develop an Alaska-specific standardized test. Questions would match up with new state standards for English and math.

Students took the Alaska Measures of Progress for the first time in spring 2015. To prepare, some school districts bought new laptops and upgraded their network bandwidth to handle the test, which is administered over the Internet.

Problems arose when the reports on students' scores got delayed over and over again. Once the scores were released, some superintendents called them too vague to tell them where they needed to improve instruction. Hanley announced last week that the Kansas-based research center would hire a subcontractor at its own expense to fix reports this year.

But Hanley said in the statement Tuesday that the federal Every Student Succeeds Act, which ended the more rigid No Child Left Behind law of 2001, provides new flexibility for states in designing their testing systems.

Students will continue to take the Alaska Measures of Progress test this spring to meet state and federal requirements. "However, the department will immediately begin collaborating with stakeholders to determine the assessment approach that will work best for Alaska's students, and to inform a request-for-proposal process," the statement said.

Tegan Hanlon

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