Dillingham and schools around Alaska roll out new PEAKS test

Mar 28, 2017

Schools around Alaska began PEAKS testing this week, the new statewide assessment for English language arts, math and science.

Credit Alaska Department of Education & Early Development

The Dillingham City School District started its annual statewide assessment in English language arts, math and science today. The testing window for schools around the state opened Monday and runs through April 28. This year schools are using PEAKS. It stands for Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools.

Students in Dillingham will be taking their PEAKS test with pencil and paper. The state of Alaska gave schools the option to administer a paper test or a computer-based test this year. Dillingham Elementary School Principal Nick Schollmeier says that they made that choice to ensure that they will have no technical difficulties.

“The last two years we put a lot of time into setting up schedules and making sure that we had all the equipment we needed up and running, Schollmeier explains. “And this year even middle way through January we still didn’t know what the requirements were going to be. So we decided our best bet would be to do paper and pencil this year.”

The state switched away from Standards Based Assessments two years ago. The longstanding SBAs were replaced with the Alaska Measures of Progress. But that has been a bumpy road. Last year the computer-based testing was interrupted when a construction worker at the University of Kansas accidentally severed a fiber optic cable. The university housed Alaska’s testing vendor, and that cable connected it to the students taking the test. As a result, the scores were cancelled.

Even before the technical difficulties, there were growing pains associated with the transition from one test to another. Schollmeier says that was true of AMP and will likely be true of PEAKS testing.

“I think it’ll take this year alone for base score, and I think to get a pretty accurate and a good base score it’ll take a couple of years. Next year there’s a good chance it will be all electronic, so next year could be a base line as well,” says Schollmeier. “It could be a while before we actually get something that we can kind of use at a district or a at a classroom level.”

The vendor for PEAKS, Data Recognition Corporation, is the same one that produced the SBAs from 2005 to 2014, and Schollmeier says he thinks the tests will be similar.

The testing schedule for Dillingham students is reading and writing for third through 10th-graders on Tuesday and math on Wednesday. On Thursday, grades four, eight and 10 will be tested on science.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-2200.