A new suite of ACT assessments are beginning this month, starting in Alabama where state officials are warning that they are not meant to rank schools or assess teachers.
Alabama State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice cautioned today that the new assessments are not meant to rank schools or assess teachers and that their scores should not be compared to the results of the state’s old testing regimen.
“If we begin to use it for something that is unintended – other than to inform instruction – then it will do the same thing that we just did under No Child Left Behind,” he said during a press briefing.
According to Bice, using the assessments as the sole accountability measure for teachers and schools would create the opportunity for the tests to become the curriculum as they did under NCLB.
Assessments of Students Created By Teachers
Proposing that the assessments be just one piece of a “balanced” accountability system, Bice said the most effective assessments of students are those created by teachers on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis.
He gave few details of how the balanced accountability system would assess and hold educators accountable, but he said the Alabama State School Board would discuss the matter during its 8:30 a.m. work session Thursday at the Gordon Person’s Building in Montgomery.
Bice also warned that comparing the results from the new assessments to the old, discontinued assessments such as the Alabama Reading and Math Test or the Alabama High School Graduation Exam would create a false perception that student academic performance is declining.
What will really be occurring, he said, is that the new assessments are more accurately measuring whether students will be prepared for college or career upon graduation.
“What we were testing was not aligned with the assessments that are used in our community colleges, our four-year colleges or business and industry,” Bice said of the old tests.
And the Alabama State Board of Education apparently agrees with his cautionary words on how to use the new assessments.
Voting today – with two absences and one abstention – the board approved a resolution declaring that the new assessment results would only be used to inform parents of student performance and guide teacher and school instructional practices for the first year.
During the press briefing, school officials touted the benefits of the new assessments, saying they are better aligned with the needs of colleges and business and industry.
They also said the assessments will give parents easier to understand results, projecting the child’s ACT college-entrance exam score if he or she remains on the same track. Bice said they would better guide teachers and school administrators on students’ individual needs.
School also officials pointed out that the new assessments take only two to four hours to complete, versus five days for the old assessment system.
As to Alabama being the first state to use the new suite of tests, which begin in the third grade and continue annually through graduation, Bice said he is not concerned even though most other states are opting for the federally funded assessments associated with the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
“I think it’s real important to acknowledge that ACT as a testing company has 50 years of research behind it,” he said. “I don’t want to throw any other testing consortia under the bus, but they’re the new ones.”
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