Alaska Board of Education Reduces Test Score Requirements in Response to Nationally High Standards

The Alaska board of education has given approval for a reduction in the standard test scores required for student proficiency. This decision comes after concerns were raised about the state’s high bar compared to national standards.

When it comes to standardized tests, student success is determined by cut scores, which represent the range of results indicating whether a score is above or below proficiency for a particular grade level.

Alaska has had extremely high standards for proficiency, and there have been discussions about whether the cut scores were set too high in certain areas.

During its recent meeting, the school board approved a series of adjustments to the standards for the Alaska System of Academic Readiness (AK STAR) tests proposed by the Department of Education and Early Development. The board also updated regulations for administering assessments to students with disabilities.

DEED Commissioner Deena Bishop stated that the new cut scores provide a more realistic reflection of the growth that typical students can achieve between assessments. She emphasized that while the expectations for proficiency may have been lowered, Alaska’s standards are still among the highest in the nation.

“We’re still in the top third of all states in the nation for expectations and high standards,” she said. “We’re just not at the top anymore.”

Some members of the public expressed criticism of the changes, arguing that the state should be supporting teachers and students instead of lowering expectations.

Timothy Doran, a former educator and administrator who currently serves on the Fairbanks North Star School District Board, called for a review of the assessment standards before altering the cut scores. However, he did appreciate DEED’s approach to the process.

“We’re using a cut score based on a standard that is 10 years old and hasn’t been evaluated for appropriateness,” he said. “We’re applying it to a test without considering whether students understand the questions or if the bar is set too high for them.”

Haines Borough School District Superintendent Roy Getchell commended the department for its efforts and his participation in the policy review for the regulation change.

“Assessments in Alaska and across the country have experienced numerous setbacks and interruptions, which have eroded confidence in our processes. That’s why it was crucial for us to get it right from the start. I now have much more confidence in the presentation,” he said.

Lisa Parady, executive director of the Alaska Council of School Administrators and holder of a doctorate in educational leadership, stated that policy reviews like this one are a normal part of the process. She also acknowledged that Alaska has undergone many assessment changes over the years.

“We’ve seen a lot of changes, and now we’re on the right track,” she explained. “We all have a responsibility to ensure accuracy and alignment, so that our teachers can benefit from the assessment results.”

The Alaska Department of Education has announced that the release of STAR test results was delayed due to the adjustment in cut scores.