Alaska joins student assessment consortium

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development announced Friday that Alaska is joining a state-led consortium developing tests aligned with a national initiative to establish student assessment standards.

The Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which includes about half of all states as well as the United States Virgin Islands, aims to bring language arts and mathematics curricula more in line with the Common Core State Standards.

“The Smarter Balanced assessment will allow us to compare our students more closely with those around the country and confirm the rigor of Alaska’s standards compared to the Common Core,” said DEED Commissioner Mike Hanley, as quoted in the department’s news release.

According to the release, SBAC will produce assessments for third through eighth grade and 11th grade, as well as “formative assessments” for use throughout the school year to prepare students for the tests, by the 2014-2015 school year.

SBAC also will determine the assessment scores that indicate levels of achievement such as advanced, proficient, below proficient, and far below proficient.

The department said in its release that “students should not need remedial courses in English and math in postsecondary institutions” — a major component of the instruction provided by the University of Alaska System — because SBAC works with colleges and universities to establish “benchmark scores” for the 11th grade assessment to determine how prepared students are for college.

Year-end assessments will be taken via computer.

“The assessments will be adaptive, meaning they are individualized to each student by basing questions on the student’s response to previous questions,” the DEED release asserts. “This method produces a more accurate understanding of each student’s achievement.”

The release notes that school districts will retain authority over curricula and teaching methods even after SBAC assessments are implemented.


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