The month of December is a particularly busy time for our students and staff. In addition to the many evening holiday performances, several teachers schedule in-class presentations, performances and end-of-semester projects and papers. Along with final semester exams, performance- and project-based assessments are based in best practices for measuring an individual student’s progress. These assessments are also in keeping with the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) emphasis on multiple measures of student learning.
Another important component of the ESSA is the requirement for states to administer statewide summative assessments in English language arts, math and science. Earlier this month, the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development concluded its search for a new testing vendor by selecting the Data Recognition Corporation (DRC) to develop exams for students in grades 3 through 10 that are aligned with Alaska’s education standards.
Chosen from among six test development vendors, DRC is familiar to many Alaska educators and parents as the same company that provided the Standards Based Assessments (SBAs) in reading, writing, and math that were used in Alaska’s schools from 2005 through 2014. Additionally, DRC provided the SBA science assessment through 2015 and it has continued to provide the assessment schools use for English language learners.
DEED chose DRC as its new test vendor due largely to the company’s familiarity with Alaska and its ability to deliver the statewide assessment either as a computer-based test or in a traditional paper/pencil format. DRC also responded to Alaska’s request to develop a plan to provide assessments in languages other than English, including Alaska native languages.
Knowing what to expect this Spring with regard to statewide assessments is good news; now, the District can go forward with planning for the administration of the tests in our schools. Further good news is the shift in emphasis from high stakes testing, to end-of-year assessments that measure students’ understanding of Alaska’s academic standards and that provide data to improve schools and close achievement gaps. It is hoped that the new exams, combined with traditional classroom tests, projects and presentations, will lead to overall assessments that give a truer measure of individual student learning.
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