Kansas and Alaska to Write Their Own Common Core Tests

Published February 18, 2014

Kansas and Alaska independently decided to pull out of national Common Core tests and hire Kansas University’s Assessment & Achievement Institute to create their English language arts and math assessments. The tests for both states will probably be similar, but they’re still in the early phases of being written, say AAI staff.

Now 39 states and DC belong to Smarter Balanced (SBAC), which Alaska and Kansas left, and the other national consortium, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).

“We were glad to see the Kansas State Board of Education vote to leave SBAC and continue to use Kansas assessments” through AAI’s Center for Educational Testing & Evaluation (CETE), said Kristin George of Kansans Against Common Core. In December she learned CETE has also received test questions from WestEd, a contractor that provides questions to SBAC. That led to questions over how different the Kansas tests would be.

CETE no longer receives test questions from WestEd, said Marianne Perie, CETE’s codirector: “All item writing will be done in-house with the assistance of teachers.”

Similar, but Different
AAI has begun working on Kansas’s tests, said AAI Director Neal Kingston, “so we have more of an idea what [the new Kansas] tests will look like. We proposed several ideas to Alaska, but we do not have a contract with Alaska yet, so they have not finalized their plans. While I expect there to be similarities, and even some shared items, between the two tests, I am also certain there will be state-specific differences. As of now, our expectation is that both states will have tests that take advantage of computer technology and include both multiple-choice and technology-enhanced items which require students to produce answers and not just recognize answers.”

Alaska plans to move from paper to electronic tests and align their tests to new state standards, said Erik McCormick, testing director for the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development. A 2013 analysis found Alaska’s math and English standards are largely the same as Common Core.

“We have not yet proceeded to negotiations with AAI to develop our tests,” McCormick said.

Although many of the individual test questions may look similar among all three tests, Kingston said, “the major difference will be in the ‘test specifications’ which tell the test developers exactly how many of what types of items measuring which aspect of content will appear on the test.”

AAI’s tests will require less human grading than national Common Core tests, Kingston added.

A main reason many parents oppose Common Core is its connection to data collection on students, which happens through the tests, George said.

“There is also a growing opposition to standardized testing, and parents are choosing to opt their children out of the testing or refusing to take the test,” she said. “So whether the Kansas assessments are coming through SBAC, WestEd, or KU CETE, there are still reasons for concern.”


Image by Maria Coleman.