AMP tests cancelled after internet disruptions

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development cancelled the computerized Alaska Measures of Progress tests, AMP for short, after multiple internet connection disruptions last week. Alaska’s connection to the test was interrupted after a construction worker at the University of Kansas accidentally damaged a fiber optic cable. The campus in Kansas serves as headquarters for the Alaska’s testing vendor, the Achievement and Assessment Institute.

After the initial disruption on Tuesday, the Department of Education and Early Development, EED for short, delayed testing until Thursday. But a few hours into the test on Thursday, students once again lost connection. According to an EED press release, schools reported that some students’ answers were lost.

Nome Public Schools Superintendent Shawn Arnold said about 400 students in Nome were affected by the connection disruption. The test is given to students in grades 3 through 10 in English language arts and math over a five-week period. Additional science exams are given to students in grades 4, 8 and 10.

The test can be given over a five-week period, and NPS chose to have the majority of students take it over the last two weeks. The plan was to be finished this week. Arnold said students in 5th and 6th grade were about an hour into the test on Tuesday when the connection was interrupted. Arnold described the issue as “start and stop,” students couldn’t submit their answers reloading the page didn’t work.

EED notified schools that testing was done for the day, but would possibly begin again on Monday. On Saturday, schools were notified that AMP tests were done for the year, citing the impact the connection disruption may have had on the students. “The purpose of assessment is to provide valid, useful results. At this point, some students have been interrupted by online connectivity problems while tested, in some cases repeatedly.  We cannot with certainty say that this year’s assessments will provide an accurate reflection of all students’ knowledge and performance,” Dr. Susan McCauley, Interim Commissioner of Education and Early Development said.

McCauley also said she was unwilling to have teachers sacrifice any more class time when there was no guarantee that the problems would be corrected. “I am not willing to keep Alaska’s schools in this state of uncertainty given that we do not know if or when we can resume testing successfully,” said McCauley.

AMP is only in its second year in Alaska’s school system. Since this year’s tests were incomplete, some school districts do not have the assessment to track their progress over the past year.

Arnold said NPS uses another test, Northwest Evaluation Association’s Measures of Academic Progress, to monitor students. Children start taking the MAP test in kindergarten, and continue until 10th grade. Arnold prefers this test to AMP, which he referred to controversial. “We were only doing it because we had to,” he said of the state exam.

Arnold explained that there are two types of assessments: formative and summative. The former provides a benchmark, students take it multiple times a year and teachers can adjust their curriculum based on the scores. Arnold likened it to a doctor’s appointment; educators are able to diagnose any possible issues and work to fix them. Summative exams are a cumulative test given at the end of the year; often by the time school districts have the results students have moved on to other grades. Arnold compared summative exams, such as AMP, to autopsies; no matter what the problem was, it is too late to fix it.

Arnold was no alone in his disappointment with AMP. The test received much negative feedback, and in January, former Alaska State Education Commissioner Mike Hanley announced that the state would no longer be using AMP tests after the 2016 round of testing. It is still uncertain as to what the tests will be replaced with.

The Nome Nugget

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Nome, Alaska 99762

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