The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development is looking for a new vendor that will replace the Alaska Measures of Progress and Alaska Alternative assessments for grades 3-10 in the 2017 round of spring testing.
Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Sean Dusek said he supports the search, but administrators have some standards they would like the new contract holder to be able to address.
“First, timely and appropriate information from the assessments that can help promote student learning growth and the ability to conduct the assessment electronically to support timely results,” he said. “…The concern is that the vendor will not be able to provide timely and appropriate information to help make instructional decisions for student learning growth.”
Former Department of Education Commissioner Mike Hanley made the decision to throw out the AMP test in January after a foray of fierce concerns from staff and administrators that followed delayed and subpar results data in the fall of 2015. Then, the second and final round was cancelled this spring after technical difficulties that cut students off mid-test and deleted data persisted during the first week of testing.
Dusek said the replacement process has the potential to go more smoothly if a vendor is chosen that could use an assessment school districts are already familiar with.
“If the vendor has to develop a brand new assessment from scratch, we would have a difficult time preparing staff and becoming ready for implementation this year,” he said.”
Tim Vlasak, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Director of K-12 Schools, has provided input to the state at every possible opportunity. He would like to see the next test include an online format, and one that can be used directly to improve student performance throughout the school year. He said digital assessments offer better timeliness of data return.
Margaret MacKinnon, the Department of Education’s Director of Assessment and Accountability, said at this point it is likely the new test will be off-the-shelf. There is not enough time between now and next spring for a company to develop a completely new assessment based on Alaska’s standards, she said.
“There might be some options to add some things or maybe evolve over time if we find a vendor we can work with, or do some customization, or flexibilities,” MacKinnon said.
Roughly $4.5 million is available for this year’s contract.
Part of the Request for Information, which is the process the state is utilizing to look for a new vendor, is to see who might be able to work within that budget, MacKinnon said.
Depending on how many and who returns the request, there may or may not be an opportunity for the public to comment on the chosen vendors, she said.
“The current request for information put out by DEED (the Department of Education) will provide a snapshot of options available to the state,” Dusek said. “This will inform the state on what the next steps will determine next steps for the State to identify a new vendor that can meet Alaska’s unique needs.”
MacKinnon said the Alaska would be looking to other states that have had to implement new tests on a similar timeline.
“I am hopeful,” she said. “I think it is doable.”
Vendors have until Sept. 6 to respond to the state’s request. Potential assessments must be able to show how well students meet state standards, provide data for school improvement efforts and ensure equity for all students.
Reach Kelly Sullivan at firstname.lastname@example.org.