Mat-Su educators critical of AMP scores

Results of the new Alaska Measures of Progress standardization tests were made public Monday. And some school districts are not pleased with the results, nor with the testing itself.

Although state education commissioner Mike Hanley says the AMP scores mark a new era and a new baseline for educational standards assessment, some educators say the scores say little about individual student achievement. One critic of the tests is Matanuska-Susitna Borough school superintendent Dr. Deena Paramo:

“This assessment wholly frustrates us and our educators.”

Paramo says the caveat that the AMP results are not to be used for instructional decisions runs counter to the purpose of student evaluations, because the AMP data does not indicate in what area students are failing to meet the mark.

“The assessment itself shares that the data at this point should not be used for instructional decisions. So we spend a lot of class time and energy and money in the state to have an assessment for which we don’t gain information for what students are next best ready to learn.”

Commissioner Mike Hanley says the spring 2015 test results are a measure of tougher state education standards. General statewide results show that less than half the students tested meet proficiency requirements in English Language Arts or mathematics, based on four scoring levels. Paramo says AMP results are too general.

“Sure, it’s a baseline and will tell us that, maybe more kids in this school got fours than this school. What I want to know in our district is individually, per child, what can we do to change learning behavior, and this assessment does not do that.”

Hanley says that it is possible that the AMP scores could be used to find deficiencies in curriculum. But he said the scores are are not designed to indicate individual student capabilities.

“It’s not a deep enough picture of a student’s performance. The better picture is all those formative tools that inform a teacher’s practice throughout a year. ”

The Commissioner also stated that the scores are not designed to rank school district performance.

“It’s designed to be kind of a hopefully a confirming picture of how the student’s doing and how the school’s doing.”

According to AMP information on the  state website, tests are taken at a point in the school year to get an indication of whether or not the student meets standards of learning appropriate for his/her grade level. The tests are given grades 3-10.

Results released Monday show the percentage of students in each grade by district  that reached either level 4 or 3, which indicate the students met the standards. The students who finished in level 1 and 2 only partially met the standards, according to Hanley.

Paramo would prefer more flexibility for school districts in assessing student growth.

“Where I sit in Mat-Su and where many other in other school district’s sit around the state, we have highly valuable nationally normed assessments that we can give, that actually give us robust information on student learning. We would just prefer to allow districts to maybe have the state vet what we are doing, and then say ‘yes, this is a reliable and valid assessment, you may use this one.”

In Anchorage, the scores were a few points higher than the statewide results. Anchorage School District Superintendent Ed Graff says they are still trying to understand the new information.

“So we really want to make sure we take that information and understand it then we can talk about how we’ll apply it for student learning.”

Graff says the test is just another tool for measuring how students are doing.

Follow this link for more information on AMP results.



APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone.
Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA
elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen

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