After just one year in public schools, the Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) test has been cancelled, leaving schools without a statewide assessment.
The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development announced the cancellation on April 1, after repeated technical disruptions to computer-based testing rendered the effected tests invalid.
Interruption to the test occurred when a fiber optic cable was severed at the University of Kansas, which houses the Achievement and Assessment Institute where AMP is generated.
In a press release, Interim Commissioner of Education & Early Development Susan McCauley said, “The purpose of assessment is to provide valid, useful results. To have valid results, all students must be given the test under the same conditions. At this point, some students have been interrupted by online connectivity problems while they tested, in some cases repeatedly. We cannot with certainty say that this year’s assessments will provide an accurate reflection of all students’ knowledge and performance.”
Last year, the first for AMP, Skagway School received the highest scores in the state. Of the 43 students who participated, close to 63 percent met the standards in English Language Arts and Mathematics. The school ranked almost 12 percent higher in English than the next highest scoring district and 18 percent higher in math.
But with the test now cancelled, schools won’t have anything to compare to.
Skagway School Superintendent Josh Coughran said he hasn’t seen anything like it since the No Child Left Behind Act in 2001, which supported standards-based education reform and required states to develop assessments in basic skills.
Standardized tests are required for schools to receive federal funding.
“My hope is that they cleared that with the feds before they actually [cancelled] it,” he said.
For Skagway School, the cancellation doesn’t have a huge impact. Students will continue to take the Measures of Academic Progress assessment, which Coughran said measures students on where they are at and looks at how they can grow. As a computer adaptive assessment, no two MAP tests are the same. How a student answers one question determines what the next question will be.
While it may not be the best for a statewide assessment, Coughran said because of MAP, the school has a good handle on students’ capacity.
He said the AMP test didn’t stress growth. Once students reached a level of proficiency, they’d reached their goal.
“Some educators walked away really dissatisfied with where they put the level. They felt that the system set them up to fail because there were only 10 to 15 percent of kids that were going to be passing on those standards,” he said.
For Skagway School teachers, the cancellation comes with some relief, as testing takes away instructional time.
“To deprive any instructional time, you want to make it worthwhile. Around the state, the community of educators just didn’t think that the AMP testing was worthwhile.”
But for students, the cancellation is a disappointment. Coughran said some students wore last year’s success as a badge of honor and looked forward to the different atmosphere that testing brings.
The assessment was part of a five-year $25 million contract, with $5 million to be paid each year. Whether the state will receive a refund for 2016 remains to be seen.
Request for proposals for new assessments will begin in spring 2017.