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KETCHIKAN (KDN) — The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development has joined the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, which develops tests for Common Core State Standards.
In order to join the consortium, a memorandum of understanding had to be signed by Gov. Sean Parnell, Education Commissioner Mike Hanley and State Board of Education Chair Jim Merriner.
Alaska hasn’t adopted the Common Core — the state adopted its own standards "that align with" the Common Core in 2012, said Erik McCormick, Alaska director of Assessment, Accountability and Information Management — but will now have access to tests developed to meet the standards.
McCormick said the state opted against adopting the Common Core because it has to be accepted "100 percent, without changes," which would leave Alaska students potentially struggling with more advanced concepts at earlier ages.
"In many cases, skills are being pushed down a grade or two lower,"?he said of the Common Core.
"Fifth-grade skills are pushed down to being fourth- or third-grade skills."
However, because the state’s system is similar to the Common Core, assessments developed through the consortium can be used by Alaska. McCormick said it’s the best option because of the expense associated with developing test material.
Calling them "expensive pieces of technology," he said Alaska can now choose which tests to use in its schools.
New technology allows tests performed on the computer to respond to each student. If a certain question yields a wrong answer, the next question would be different than if a student had answered correctly.
The tests are expected to be available in schools at the end of the 2014-2015 school year, at which point they would replace other state year-end assessments, according to McCormick.
The Common Core has become popular in the U.S. as 45 states have adopted the standards, which were developed by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers.