Palmer lawmaker files bill to nix new standardized test

The Alaska Measures of Progress exam started to get a bad rap months after it appeared in schools last spring. Rep. Jim Colver, R-Palmer, has pre-filed a bill to do away with the exam.

Because the test raised the bar significantly, scores came back significantly lower than previous years’ assessments. Unforeseen challenges had the test vendor rolling out those scores several weeks later than expected this fall.

Colver says the test scores don’t give educators “usable” information about their students’ progress.

“I think it represents a failed experiment of top-down education when we gear up for a mandate, and spend a lot of precious time that could be used in the classroom to take a test and then find out we can’t determine from that test if there’s any learning occurring, or what a student needs to improve on because of the way the test is administered and scored,” he said.

Colver’s legislation would prohibit the state from administering the AMP test, which was developed for Alaska by the Kansas-based Achievement and Assessment Institute under a $25 million contract.

Instead, it calls for a “research-based” test with results that “teachers can use to inform individual student instruction” and to compare their students to national norms.

For this alternate test, Colver points to the MAP, or Measures of Alaska Progress test, which is already used as a benchmarking tool in many Alaska schools.

“The beauty of the MAP test is it gives instantaneous results, and it creates a learning plan, …” he said. “But more importantly, it gives good valuable data, and it’s frequently administered in some districts several times a year to chart progress.”

If passed, Colver’s bill would require the state to implement MAP or a “substantially similar system of assessments.”

Dropping AMP would likely leave schools without a standardized test for spring 2016; in that case, the state would need to seek a waiver from the U.S. Department of Education to be able to skip testing for a year.

The legislative session begins Jan. 19. The Joint House and Senate Education Committees will meet to discuss AMP testing on the 20th.

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