Petersburg Pilot -

State budget and testing complications rattle district

 


The State of Alaska Department of Education and Early Development (ADEED) cancelled statewide testing assessments last Friday.

Multiple interruptions and glitches affected testing in Petersburg schools.

According to a department press release, the computer based Alaska Measures of Progress (AMP) tests were interrupted beginning Tuesday when a construction worker accidentally severed a fiber optic cable at the University of Kansas.

“The university houses the state’s testing vendor, the Achievement & Assessment Institute,” the release states. “Severing the cable cut the online connection between Alaska’s test-takers and the vendor. When testing resumed on Thursday, Alaska schools experienced interruptions in the connection, and they reported that some students’ answers had been lost.”

Petersburg School District Superintendent Erica Kludt Painter said the glitches started Tuesday morning and continued through the next couple of days, forcing the school to cancel testing sessions and reorganize schedules.

Petersburg students finished the testing process but the results are considered invalid.

“The purpose of assessment is to provide valid, useful results,” Dr. Susan McCauley, Interim Commissioner of Education and Early Development wrote in a press release. “We cannot with certainty say that this year’s assessments will provide an accurate reflection of all students’ knowledge and performance.”

The ADEED decided earlier this school year that the state would no longer use AMP tests after many education professionals across the state, including Kludt Painter, complained the tests’ standards didn’t match current curriculum nor were teachers given feedback on how to improve instruction.

ADEED will request proposals for a new test in the spring of 2017.

In the meantime, Kludt Painter and PSD staff have to prepare for whatever that test may be.

“It’s kind of exciting but it a little overwhelming,” Kludt Painter said. “That whole idea of putting things back in local control is great until you realize what it entails and that’s one of the concerns I have about some of the massive hits to the department of education right now that we’re looking at.”

The district is facing a possible increase in local teacher retirement contributions after the legislature’s Senate Finance Committee proposed SB 207, which would increase the current 12.5 percent local contribution to 19 percent this year—which means an additional $207,675 in potential expenditures for the district.

Kludt Painter said those potential cuts along with potential reduced department of education staff reductions means less staff at the state level and less support for implementing new testing.

The Senate Finance Committee has also proposed eliminating the Alaska Performance Scholarship, a state financed scholarship, in order to offset increased costs into the retirement system.

“Well you’ve just put everybody in an impossible situation now we’re pitting what we do every day, which is try to help kids get further in their education, whether they go to a university or a trade school,” Kludt Painter said. “It puts teachers in a position of saying well let's take the money from the kids so we can pay for the retirement system.”

Public hearings for those bills were cancelled Monday but written comments can be submitted to finance.committee@akleg.gov.

 

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