About test results in Alaska
Although test results are only one measure of student achievement, they have become increasingly important in assessing student learning. In 2005-2006 Alaska used the Standards-Based Assessment (SBA) to test students in grades 3 through 10 in reading, writing and math. The SBA replaced the Alaska Benchmark Exams in 2004-2005. In 2005-2006 Alaska also used the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam (HSGQE) to test students in grade 10 in reading, writing and math. Students must pass the HSGQE in order to graduate. The SBA and the HSGQE are standards-based tests that measure how well students are meeting the state's grade-level expectations.

Alaska also used the Terra Nova California Achievement Test, Sixth Edition Survey (CAT/6) in 2005-2006 to assess students in grades 5 and 7 in reading, language arts and math. The CAT/6 is a norm-referenced test, which means it measures how well students in Alaska scored in comparison to their peers across the country.

How are the tests scored?
SBA and HSGQE results show the level of proficiency a student demonstrates in each of the subject areas tested. Students taking the SBA receive one of four performance levels: advanced, proficient, below proficient or far below proficient. Students who take the HSGQE are scored as either proficient or not proficient. For both tests, the goal is for all students to perform at or above the proficient level.

The CAT/6 measures performance through a percentile based on the scores of all students of the same grade level in the nation. Students receive a percentile rank, which indicates how well they performed in comparison to peers in other states. If the number is 45, for example, students scored as well or better than 45% of students who took the test across the country. The national average for all schools is 50. The state's goal is for all students to score at or above the national average.

Which results are included on GreatSchools profiles?
Only the SBA and HSGQE results are included on GreatSchools profiles. For each subject, the combined percentage of students scoring at or above the proficient level is displayed.

GreatSchools also displays subgroup results to show how different groups of students are scoring in comparison to the overall student population in a given grade and subject. These subgroups are identified by the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development; if there are fewer than 5 students in a particular group, data is not reported for that group.

Why do test results matter?
State assessment results are important to schools because Alaska uses test results as the main criteria for designating each of its schools as being distinguished, successful, deficient or in crisis. Schools deemed "deficient" or "in crisis" will be required to submit plans for improvement.

For elementary and middle school students, decisions regarding grade-level promotion or retention are never based on test scores alone. However, a score of below proficient is one piece of evidence that might suggest that additional assistance is needed. For high school students, test scores are extremely important because a passing score on the HSGQE is required for graduation from an Alaska high school. Students have multiple opportunities to retake the exam if they do not pass it the first time.

It is important to be aware of both your child's score on the assessments and the overall results for his school. If your child scores below the standards, contact his teacher to discuss getting additional assistance, and to find out how you can support your child's learning at home. If the school's overall results are low, ask what steps the school is taking to raise achievement levels for all students, and what you as a parent can do to help. If your child is in a failing school, ask what your options are for transferring to a higher-performing school and for obtaining supplemental educational services.

What changes to the tests are planned for the future?
Beginning with the 2007-2008 school year, grades 4, 8 and 10 will take an SBA exam in science.

A few parting words
Although test results can be an indicator of what's happening in the classroom, they don't tell you everything about the quality of a school. Always look at more than one measure when judging school quality and visit in person before making any final determination.

Source: AK EED, 2005-2006

Close this window