Preparing Educators as Leaders

Institute receives $25M to customize, administer assessments for Alaska public schools

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

LAWRENCE — The Achievement & Assessment Institute at the University of Kansas has received a $25 million award from the Alaska Department of Education & Early Development to develop and administer customized assessments for Alaska’s public schools. The agreement extends through June 2020 and is the largest award in KU history.

“The Institute’s excellent reputation is growing,” said Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little, “both in this country and elsewhere. Educators and policymakers need tools that demonstrate classroom performance and student progress in meaningful ways. It’s impressive that states such as Alaska and Kansas are turning to AAI for these tools and forming long-term partnerships with KU.”

The Alaska assessments, developed by AAI’s Center for Educational Testing & Evaluation with computerized delivery systems created by the Institute’s Agile Technology Solutions, will provide parents, students and educators with information about student achievement in reading, writing and mathematics — subjects that are fundamental to daily life, the workplace, K-12 schools, the military, apprenticeships, technical schools and colleges. Assessment results will also help the state and school districts determine where to place resources for struggling students.

“Alaska is very excited to work with AAI to develop assessments and measurement tools for our students as they transition to college and career readiness,” said Erik McCormick, EED director of Assessment, Accountability and Information Management.

AAI will provide customized computer-based assessments for grades 3-10 that align with the Alaska Standards in English language arts and mathematics that the state adopted in 2012. Schools that are not ready to administer online tests will be provided with a paper/pencil format. Summative assessments, given toward the end of the school year, will first be administered in spring 2015.

“We are honored that the state of Alaska has entrusted this important work to us,” said Neal Kingston, director of AAI and professor in the Department of Psychology and Research in Education in the School of Education. “One of the advantages of a state using a customized test is that ultimately the state determines what the test looks like. We have proposed several ideas to Alaska, but as we are just beginning our formal collaboration, we have not finalized plans. What we do know is that the Alaska test will make use of computer technology and include both multiple-choice and technology-enhanced items, which require students to produce answers and not just recognize answers.”

AAI delivers assessments using a web-based interface with student-friendly, intuitive graphics. AAI’s assessment-delivery systems have been used in Kansas since 2005 and also in states participating in the Career Pathways Assessment System and the Dynamic Learning Maps Alternate Assessment Consortium. AAI annually delivers more than 1.8 million summative assessments to students.

“A lot of work that has been done in Kansas can be applied to our work in Alaska,” said CETE Director Marianne Perie, “and we will have additional lessons learned there that we can apply to Kansas. I foresee a fruitful partnership among AAI, Kansas and Alaska.”

Alaska educators will play integral roles in the process of customizing the assessments, including reviewing the assessments for bias and cultural sensitivity, and setting the scoring thresholds for levels of achievement. One of their first opportunities to participate will come this summer. AAI is recruiting Alaska educators, authors and university students for a series of writing workshops in summer 2014 and summer 2015 aimed at creating high-quality English-language-arts passages that represent the state’s diverse voices and topics. In partnership with the Alaska Department of Education and with support from universities in Juneau, Fairbanks and Anchorage, AAI passage-development experts will lead workshops devoted to crafting original passages that distinctively reflect the Alaska experience. Writers will develop texts for elementary, middle school and high school audiences.

About the Achievement & Assessment Institute
Established in 2012, AAI is the umbrella organization for four specialized educational research centers at KU: CETE, ATS, the Center for Public Partnerships & Research and the Center for Educational Opportunity Programs. AAI builds partnerships, products and programs in educational practice, assessment and evaluation. These initiatives benefit children, adults, communities and publicly funded agencies at the local, state and national levels.

10th among public universities for its master’s and doctoral programs
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#1 public program in nation for special education
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Assists public schools and other partners in all 105 Kansas counties
$938,377 in scholarship funds awarded to 420+ students
Research expenditures of $36,804,773 for 2011-12
Research from KU’s largest grant, the $24.5 million SWIFT project, assists educators, children, and families across the United States
The award-winning special education faculty published 140 refereed articles, 11 books, and 60 chapters in 2015-16
Students with intellectual disabilities are participating in KU undergraduate programs through a grant-funded KU special education program
Researchers on a $3.5 million grant are collecting data on an innovative reading program designed to teach reading to students with the most significant disabilities in seven Kansas school districts
One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
44 nationally ranked graduate programs.
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