Bill Woodard
Achievement & Assessment Institute

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

Wed, 06/11/2014

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.

KU in the news
The Daily MailSat, 04/25/2015
CNNMon, 04/13/2015
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner. See it here:
Rock Chalk! Junior Ashlie Koehn named KU's 18th Truman Scholar
Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening.

RT @kulibraries : Check out this news feature & then check out his book with us: #KULibraries #KUWorks…
Wanna Skype? Chancellor gets creative to surprise Truman winner From KU News Service: Ashlie Koehn, a University of Kansas junior from Burns studying in Kyrgyzstan, interrupted helping her host family prepare dinner to make a Skype call on Monday evening. To her surprise, Chancellor Bernadette Gray-Little was on the other end of the call letting Koehn know she had been named a 2015 Harry S. Truman Scholar. Koehn is the 18th KU student to be named a Truman Scholar and the only 2015 recipient from the state of Kansas. Earlier this month, she was also named a 2015 Udall Scholar. And in spite of a distance of more than 10,800 kilometers and 11 time zones, Koehn’s thrill from hearing the news from the chancellor came through loud and clear. “Ashlie’s experience at KU epitomizes a quality undergraduate experience. She challenged herself in her coursework, exposed herself to different research opportunities, studied abroad in Germany, Switzerland and Kyrgyzstan, and participated in both student government and community service projects,” Gray-Little said. “This is quite a year for Ashlie. Her hard work is a wonderful reflection on her and also a great reflection on the university, and we all congratulate her.” Each new Truman Scholar receives up to $30,000 for graduate study. Scholars also receive priority admission and supplemental financial aid at some premier graduate institutions, leadership training, career and graduate school counseling, and special internship opportunities within the federal government. Koehn, a member of KU’s nationally recognized University Honors Program, is majoring in environmental studies, economics and international studies. Her goal after earning her KU degree is to pursue a master’s degree in economics at either the London School of Economics or the University of Reading, with a focus on the economics of climate change. In 2014, she received KU’s Newman Civic Engagement Award for her work establishing the Coalition against Slavery and Trafficking. Her involvement with the issue was sparked by Hannah Britton, associate professor of political science and women, gender, and sexuality studies, who hosted national conference on contemporary slavery at KU three years ago. “Ashlie and I met several times to think about what KU students could contribute to the issue of slavery and human trafficking, and the result was her founding of KU CAST,” Britton said. “After a year as president, Ashlie successfully handed the organization over to the next student leader. She demonstrated her strong leadership qualities by setting a unique goal and then pursuing it with her sense of passion, engagement and dedication. No matter the country or context, her leadership strength is evident in her coursework, her public service and her work experiences.” The University Honors Program works with a campus committee to select KU’s nominees for the Truman Scholarship and supports them during the application process. Anne Wallen, assistant director of national fellowships and scholarships, noted it was an amazing ruse to pull off the surprise. Originally, the call was set up to be between Wallen and Koehn. “I was totally not prepared to be greeted by Chancellor Gray-Little, but it was an amazing surprise for sure,” Koehn said. “As a first-generation student, it took time to learn the collegiate system, but my parents taught me to be resourceful and independent from a young age and KU and the Kansas Air National Guard have provided me with the opportunities to drive me into the future, both at graduate school and in my career. I plan to use the Truman Scholarship to pursue a career as an environmental economist helping to shape future trade agreements and leverage action on important international environmental issues, particularly concerning climate change.” Koehn also had a surprise of her own for the chancellor — the meal she was helping to prepare was not exactly typical Kansas dinner fare. On the menu with her host family in Kyrgyzstan on Monday was a traditional Kyrgyz meal called Beshbarmak, or “five fingers,” because you eat it with your hands. The dish is made of horse and sheep and was being prepared as a birthday celebration for Koehn’s host mom. Chancellor Gray-Little, as she signed off from Skype, made sure to encourage Koehn to enjoy her Beshbarmak. Koehn is the daughter of Rodney and Carolyn Koehn of Burns. She graduated from Fredric Remington High School in Moundridge. She is an active member of the Kansas Air National Guard and currently on leave while studying abroad in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan. She is a member of the KU Global Scholars Program and a past member of the Student Senate. In addition to being named a 2015 Truman and Udall scholar, she was named a 2014 Boren Scholar and Gilman Scholar and in 2013 was named the Kansas Air National Guard Airman of the Year.

One of 34 U.S. public institutions in the prestigious Association of American Universities
26 prestigious Rhodes Scholars — more than all other Kansas colleges combined
Nearly $290 million in financial aid annually
46 nationally ranked graduate programs.
—U.S. News & World Report
Top 50 nationwide for size of library collection.
23rd nationwide for service to veterans —"Best for Vets," Military Times