PEAKS Test Results Raise Questions, Concerns

The Anchorage School District has been left in a state of confusion over the past month as seemingly inadequate Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools scores arrive.

In spring of the 2016-2017 school year, students from grades three to 10 across the state of Alaska took the PEAKS standardized test, and some six months later, scores are just now arriving.

Students in all grades were tested in the categories of mathematics and English language arts. The science test was only offered to students in the fourth, eighth and tenth grades.

In each grade and testing category across the district, at least 50 percent of scores were below the set level of proficiency, except for the scores of 10th graders in the category of science, which had 45.4 percent of scores under the level of proficiency.

At the state level, across all grades, 50 percent of scores in each testing category were once again below the level of proficiency, except for the 10th grade science scores which rose by 0.1 percent to have 45.5 percent of scores under proficient.

All scoring percentages stated above, and more, can be gathered from the Alaska Department of Education. Additionally, personal student scores were released to parents on Sept. 22 and district results can be viewed in the Anchorage School District’s website.

According to George Campnell, assistant principal and curriculum head at Dimond, the PEAKS tests will once again be used this year as the standardized test for students ranging from third to tenth grade.

A question was also raised as to whether or not the format will be changed for the upcoming PEAKS test, but it will most likely not be changed as “it is one of those situations where last year was the first year,” Campnell said.

At this point in time though, it is unclear whether or not the set scores for advanced, proficient, below proficient, and far below proficient will be changed, as Campnell said “It is a decision made at the state level.”

As for Dimond’s scoring, the school “did better than both district and state scores in mathematics, English language arts and science,” Campnell said, with science in particular having high scores coming from Dimond.

The PEAKS scores have raised the question as to whether or not standardized testing is the best way to judge the intellect of the students that take the test as “testing in general has the potential to be a good gage, but is not meant to be the answer to everything,” said Marcus Reese, an English and film literature teacher at Dimond.

Sophomore Chelsea Bruce said, “To me, the tests don’t seem unique enough to the students taking them. For example, the math part of the test seemed to be from one math level, when the students taking the test were all in varying math levels,”

Bruce also said that, “Standardized testing doesn’t seem to show how students actually perform in their everyday classes. From what I saw most of the scores were low, but most students perform well, or at least above failing grades.”

Campnell said, “We always hope to have 100 percent of students above proficiency.” However, this was not the case with last year’s tests, and the scores “can be used to learn from for this year,” Campnell said.

Students in grades three to 10 will once again be taking PEAKS scores in the spring of the 2017-2018 school year, granted all goes as planned, students, staff and administrators across the school districts and state of Alaska will wait and see what the scores show.