State to replace unpopular AMP test by next school year

Jan 28, 2016

In a surprise announcement Tuesday, the Department of Ed says students will take AMP just once more, while the state starts the process of choosing a new test.

Alaska Education Commissioner Hanley spoke with lawmakers during a Joint House/Senate Education Committee hearing January 20.
Credit Skip Gray/360 North

In an unexpected statement Tuesday, the Department of Education announced it will do away with the Alaska Measures of Progress test after students take it for a second and final time this spring. 

Education Commissioner Mike Hanley said in a press release that the Department will replace AMP in time for the 2016-17 school year.

"After careful consideration, I believe that it is in the best interest of Alaska to consider new assessment structures that better align to instructional needs and are allowable due to changes in federal law," wrote Hanley.

He referenced the problems that have plagued the assessment, which was developed by a Kansas-based vendor on a 5-year, $25-million dollar contract and given to Alaskan 3rd through 10th graders in spring 2015. Many school administrators were frustrated by delays and perceived glitches in reporting and a lack of detailed analysis in test results.

Now, given the recent passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, Hanley said "time is of the essence" for a change. The new federal law did away with No Child Left Behind and offers states more flexibility in designing standardized tests.

"I'm declaring victory today; mission accomplished," said Rep. Jim Colver (R-Wasilla), who recently filed a bill to repeal AMP.

Also pleased by the news was Dillingham Superintendent Danny Frazier, who’s among a majority of superintendents statewide who are dissatisfied with AMP.

"It simply doesn't give us enough information. So you can test a child, but then you don't know how to go back and remediate," said Frazier. "So the AMP is out, and we're very happy with our MAP testing, because it gives us information about where the child has deficits in their learning." 

"MAP" is the Measures of Academic Progress test, used by many schools in Alaska and elsewhere as a benchmarking tool and city by many as a favorite to replace AMP. But the Department can’t guarantee that any particular test will replace AMP; legally, the state has to issue a Request for Proposals and put the test out to bid again.

"We need to create a better process that's more from the bottom up," said Rep. Colver. "In other words, reaching out to school districts, teachers, administrators and getting their input on what kind of information do they want a test to produce... And I think that's the opposite of what happened this time." 

Hanley said DEED will immediately begin "collaborating with stakeholders to determine the assessment approach that will work best for Alaskan students, and to inform a request-for-proposal process." 

The RFP process won’t finish in time for this school year’s testing. In order to meet state and federal requirements, Commissioner Hanley says schools will have to use AMP one last time this spring.

Contact the author at hannah@kdlg.org.