Bob Griffin: Why it was right to recalibrate Alaska education test standards



Recently, the Alaska State Board of Education and Early Development made changes to many of the cuts-scores that define proficiency rates for the English/Language Arts and Math under the new AKSTAR state test.

I supported the cut-score recalibrations. In the first year of the new AKSTAR test, the results showed a significant misalignment between the AKSTAR proficiency rates and the proficiency rates reported by the US Department of Education’s National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

The biggest cut-score changes were made in the area of middle school math. A great example of why the changes were needed was difference in the NAEP 8th graders math results vs AKSTAR 8th grade math. NAEP reported a 24% proficiency rate in math for Alaskan 8th graders and AKSTAR proficiency rate was only 12% — in the same school year as the NAEP results.

The remaining cut-score changes, both up and down, were fairly minor, and the results will now more closely mirror the NAEP national standards.

For the first time, in a long time, Alaska had set our standards for testing much higher than national expectations — and it was appropriate to recalibrate.

I’ve also asked the department to recalculate the previous year’s proficiency rates, using the new standards, so year-over-year growth comparisons can be made.

Bob Griffin is the reading committee chair for the Alaska Board of Education.


  1. So you’re saying that to improve the AKSTAR from 12% to 24%, we needed to “realign” the standard to achieve that higher NAEP percentage. So, instead of requiring and expecting our teachers to increase their proficiency to teach children to achieve better scores on a higher standard, you thought it was just best to hit the easy button and lower the better, state standard. Way to go my man. You’re a beacon of hope for our society. You’re the same guy that demands a 100% student base allocation, plus some.

  2. If we keep lowering our standards for our kids, pretty soon we will be in the dumpster, which we are now closer than we need to be. You can make numbers say whatever you want and hide what you’re really doing. If we have high expectations for our kids, they will perform a whole lot better than if we lower them and make it unnecessary for them to perform. NO, NO, NO. Our kids need challenge not acquiescence.

  3. Should leave the standards as they were. Why lower them jist because someone else did. Should not be dumbing down our kids.

  4. It’s sad that we don’t have teachers and materials that enable students to actually learn how to read and write proficiently enough to pass with at least a 50% minimum score. Why are we talking about raising education funding when it appears all that is happening is mostly baby sitting?

  5. Stand and Deliver. Don’t lower the standards, raise the bar and the expectation. Anything less is a disservice to the student.

  6. Lowering standards to match everyone else’s lower standards is a race to the bottom. How do these new standards compare to the educational achievement one or two generations ago? How do the new standards help 8th graders finish high school and prepare for a future in employment, or higher education?
    In a world with higher standards, a statewide 24% proficiency in 8th grade math is considered an existential crisis.

  7. Mr. Griffin, thanks for the clarification. I was worried that the State was lowering the standards just as it did before with the High School Graduation Exam. I do know that you are the wizard when it comes to data and the NAEP testing. Keep up the good work and speak to the truth.

    • What was convincing that the State did not lower standards simply in response to declining test performance?
      Seems reasonable to expect AKSTAR scores were lower because their tests were too challenging compared to U.S. Department of Education (NAEP) tests.
      From: we see: “The Alaska System of Academic Readiness (AK STAR) is designed to streamline the testing experience for grades 3–9 in the areas of English language arts (ELA) and mathematics.”
      Apparently AKSTAR is such a failure that scores must be “recalibrated”, Alaskan children can’t succeed at streamlined testing, and metrics have to be, forgive us, “cooked” to avoid more unwelcome attention to the nationally recognized quality of Alaska’s public education?
      From we see:
      “The decision to delay the release of AK STAR scores is driven by the —ongoing transition and commitment to developing a more effective assessment approach—. The incorporation of new elements, such as MAP Growth performance data, coupled with a linking study that highlighted a significant variance between grade-level percentiles, provided insights into proficiency levels.” (emphasis added)
      Bottom line: Goalposts on wheels, that’s all this team needs to look good? Great public schools have been around since when, but Alaska’s aren’t great now and can’t seem to do without “…ongoing transition and commitment to developing a more effective assessment approach”? What’s wrong with this picture?

  8. When I read about this before it was taken up at board meeting I called Bob Griffin and asked his thoughts. If anyone knows Griffin you know he is tough on education and would never support lowering test score so AK schools would look better. After his explanation of what they were trying to do, I agreed with him. Anyone that knows me, also knows I am tough on education. This was much to do about nothing.

    • Respect your opinion about these things…
      How can Griffin’s toughness on education be reconciled with the abysmal state of Alaska’s education industry?

  9. The best way to recalibrate testing standards is to hire better teachers, get the corrupt administration gone, and actually teach.

    Really, try actually teaching for a change. See what happens.

  10. Tell me why we should trust anything from the Bored (intentional) of education.
    You guys are failing at every turn.

  11. Why is it important that our proficiency standards match that of other states? I did not get that information from the article.
    Thank you Mr. Griffin

  12. Whilst I agree that some kind of baseline is useful, I’m confused why we take multiple tests only to “recalibrate” results so that all show the same thing?

    What’s the point? Multiple testing companies need to get their breaks wet? Teacher’s enjoy the extra time not doing classwork? More tests increase likelihood of getting the results we want?

    Seriously, why?

  13. “For the first time, in a long time, Alaska had set our standards for testing much higher than national expectations — and it was appropriate to recalibrate.”

    Um, Bob? Are you really this obtuse, or do you really believe that the declination within the expectations of our Alaskan Statewide student population should match, somehow, the declination of the Nationwide student population, rather than exceeding it?

    Rather than becoming a shining star of true education, you support fully the degradation of knowledge learned by OUR students so as to match the failed knowledge of those students within States elsewhere, simply so as to match their incompetence, based upon their lack of knowledge and education Nationwide.

    How, within ANY form, is that a positive response unto Alaska’s lack of proper education so as to create a more positive level of said supposed education?

    There should NOT be a degradation of expectations within the basis of Alaskan education, but an exceptional expectation beyond any National level comparative, so as to establish Alaska as the gold standard within said basic and substantial educational models.

  14. The exit exam was excellent except because a diploma was involved probable litigation would occur. Students actually tried harder to achieve because diplomas were not just handed out. But possible lawsuits ended a successful program. Everyone gets a diploma and bingo no lawsuits. Not everyone gets a diploma, lawsuits demanding more funding occurs. It is never about the education of students it is always about the funding education.

  15. Look. Kids test scores have been falling for decades. They look dumber and dumber every year. By recalibrating the test scores we can pretend they are not so stupid and then we can justify a really BIG raise for the teachers because they did such a great job improving the test scores.

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