Local parents this fall should be getting back the results of a new state standardized test taken by students in third through 10th grades last spring. It’s the first year for the Alaska Measures of Progress assessment and has higher standards than the previous state test in math and language arts. Petersburg’s school board and staff heard about the results at a board meeting and a statewide conference this month.

The new test measures students against increased state standards in math and language arts. Statewide the results show around 30-40 percent of students fully meeting those new standards, depending on the grade. The numbers are a little higher in Petersburg, with about half of the students in some of the grades meeting those measures. Nevertheless, educators say parents will be surprised by the change in assessments.
School District building with no snow
Superintendent Erica Kludt-Painter updated the school board on the results during a meeting this month. “So we’ve been kind of expecting that we knew that our kids, it was going to look different when the scores came out and it might be a little bit shocking for people because they might be used to seeing their kids at a different number with a certain number and associating and then looking at scores now,” Kludt-Painter said. “So it came in essentially what we thought, which is they don’t look the same as they used to. And our district did score substantially over the state average, which was good.”

The test is not pass-fail. Instead students score in levels one through four. Levels one and two are only partially meeting standards while levels three and four are fully meeting those marks.

Kludt-Painter said district staff are disappointed that there is not much additional information that comes with the test scores. “We felt like we might receive a little more instructional information from them, a little more instructional feedback and that is not really what’s going to happen. So that was a little bit concerning. We wanna just remind everybody that we have lots of information about how kids do at school and this is one piece of it and this doesn’t tell the whole story of your child, so don’t panic.”

Students took the computer-based exam in April and district specific results were supposed to be out earlier this year but were delayed until this month. The new test was a topic of debate during an annual conference of the Association of Alaska School Boards in Anchorage in early November.

Four members of Petersburg’s board attended that conference. “It was really quite interesting to listen to that because some people wanted to throw the whole assessment out and start over, get something from another state, why are we reinventing the wheel? This is costing a lot of money board,” said board president Sarah Holmgrain. “Then others were let’s not throw out the baby and the bathwater, let’s try and work on this and see if we can make it better.”

Holmgrain was speaking about the test results during a KFSK radio call in show. She called the delay in results and lack of information frustrating. “Because I think of all the time and money that our district spent in just getting ready for it and then teachers are not getting any sort of instructional help. A student that was struggling in something in April and now it’s November. You know we’ve lost months of possible differences or things that teachers could be doing something different for a particular student.”

Educators are emphasizing that the first year of results are just a baseline, to be compared against results in future years.

The state is mailing reports for parents to the district this month and superintendent Kludt-Painter said she hoped to have them in time for parent teacher conferences the week of November 23. She said teachers could answer parents’ questions then, or could find out more information on the department of education’s website. Students in grades three through 10 will be taking the exam again in the spring.