Standardized testing

School Board Issues

Standardized testing

Candidate Responses

All photos by Michael Penn/Juneau Empire

This year students took a new state standardized test after encountering issues with other tests in the past. How important is standardized testing for Juneau students and do you feel it receives too much or too little focus?

Kevin Allen

Candidate for School Board

There has to be a balance, as a former student I know how mentally exhausting a evaluation test might be. It is true we need a benchmark for our district and the state, but we should not be over testing the students because the time it takes out for standard instructional time is high. I do think there is too much focus and we should apply the district to tests that give us the vital data and do not take the students out of the class rooms too often.

Brian Holst

Candidate for School Board

Standardized tests are part of the educational landscape to measure student learning. We have assessments that provide immediate feedback, which helps recognize where students are struggling and address issues quickly. MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) and DIBELS (Early Literacy Screener) are examples. And we also have assessments, like the new PEAKS, that provide scores relative to others throughout the nation. These are used to measure the overall educational system, primarily, and are required by law.

Assessments where you get immediate feedback can be extremely valuable to a teacher so that they can focus on a key concept that they find that their students are not learning. Teachers use these tests to determine if/when interventions are needed. When teachers know what students are ready to learn, more learning, more quickly, takes place. These assessments are good for Juneau students.

The national assessments are a bit different. What we teach in Juneau, Alaska, is not the same as what is taught in Arkansas or some other location. So, while these tests compare students across the state and nationally, there is some concern about whether these tests are assessing what our schools teach. As an information point for policy makers and public discussion, they are valuable. Having students take this test less frequently would be OK, however, the law requires them to be done annually.

Jeff Short

Candidate for School Board

Standardized testing is crucial for monitoring the quality of public education. The federally-mandated State test has value for comparison with other school districts within the State. However, while the “measures of academic progress” (MAP) test provides a sound basis for measuring the effects of teachers, principals, and other factors on academic progress, I’m not convinced that we need three of these tests annually. The substantial time taken to prepare for and then take these tests is time not spent on instruction, and it’s not clear the tradeoff is worthwhile. Also, testing in the lower grade levels may not be very meaningful, especially for students who haven’t developed the small motor skills to input their responses to a computer. Finally, I believe the current approach to reading in grades K-3 needs careful review, especially in view of the relatively poor progress our students are making in these grades. The current approach relies heavily on repetitive testing, but evidence suggests that this approach is not delivering the results we need.

KTOO solicited the candidates’ answers by email. We’ve edited their written responses for typos, grammar and news writing style — but not for length or substance.

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