Sunday, February 8, 2015

ACT: The Time is Now

There is a growing movement in Oklahoma to change how we assess student achievement.  For years, many educators, including myself, have worked diligently to persuade our Senators and Representatives to move to the ACT and ACT Aspire as a better option over the current End of Instruction Exams and their 3-8 counterpart, the OCCT.  Yesterday, ROPE (Restore Oklahoma’s Public Education) wrote a blog opposing this movement.  I have a lot of respect for ROPE and the work they do educating parents about Oklahoma’s education policies and their blog does an excellent job of stating why they oppose the movement toward the ACT suite of assessments.  However, I felt compelled to share with #oklaed why moving to the ACT is the very best option for Oklahoma students if we are to maintain a high stakes testing culture in Oklahoma. 

In ROPE’s blog, they outlined 2 major reasons why Oklahoma shouldn’t move to the ACT (Yes, Mr. Hime I know you are not supposed to write a rebuttal blog, but I couldn’t help myself):  1) The ACT is aligned to Common Core and 2) Oklahoma needs to maintain its sovereignty over test questions and state academic standards. Noble goals, but both needs to be clarified.  First, the ACT test is standardized (meaning all students answers the same questions), criterion referenced (meaning its questions measure student knowledge against a specific learning target), and norm referenced (meaning it compares student answers to students from around the nation). ROPE would have you believe the ACT is aligned to Common Core.  Actually, the ACT is aligned to the College and Career Readiness standards.  CCR standards are nationally recognized academic learning targets American high school students should know if they are to be successful post-secondary education.  This is the very same goal of Oklahoma’s public education system: College and Career Readiness. Recently, the Oklahoma Regents of Higher Education certified that PASS standards were aligned to College and Career Readiness Standards.  We should not claim PASS, ACT, and Common Core are the same thing just because they are all aligned to a minimum set of knowledge standards we want all high school students to know when they graduate.

The idea that Oklahoma should maintain sovereignty over its standards is right on the mark.  Oklahoma teachers should have autonomy over the learning activities in their classrooms.  Oklahoma teachers should work together to develop rigorous standards for Oklahoma children.  No one is denying the necessity for sovereignty over standards.  However, there are only a few companies which are proficient in writing, developing, and administering assessments to measure Oklahoma student achievement.  ROPE mentioned the Iowa Test of Basic Skills and the Stanford Achievement Tests as viable options.  YES, they both are standardized, norm referenced tests.  YES, both are not aligned to CCR or Common Core.  And YES, neither are developed by Oklahoma teachers nor controlled by Oklahoma standards.  And YES, neither are used for college admission.  Isn’t the purpose of our testing reform movement to find an assessment that has practical application to our students?  The ACT is the basic test used for college entrance.  Using the ITBS or the Stanford 10 would be just like the EOI – providing us information about student achievement (after the fact mind you) but not having any validity toward post-secondary life.   

The ACT and its ACT Aspire tests would provide Oklahoma teachers a comprehensive assessment program to provide formative data from grade 3 through graduation.  The test would satisfy college entrance requirements for those students who wish to seek a college education.  The work keys aspect of the ACT suite of exams would provide our business and industry organizations with vital information about a student’s ability to go to work.  Both of those are key components to Gov. Fallin’s goals of increasing more college degrees and career tech certifications.  It only makes sense we use a test aligned to Oklahoma’s College and Career Ready goals.  It only makes sense we use a test which is more cost effective (putting more educational dollars back into the classroom).  It only makes sense we minimize the time needed for testing (thus maximizing instructional time).  It only makes sense we use an assessment which benefits our students in the pursuit of their post high school goals.  The ACT is the right assessment to meet all these goals.  Join the movement.  Make Oklahoma education better for ALL our students.    

1 comment:

  1. I think rebuttal blogs are fine! I appreciate your opinion Jason, but (yes there's nearly always a but!) I provided many, many links that show ACT Aspire is directly aligned to the Common Core and the other ACT tests are as well. IOWA's test for upper grades DOES indicate college and career readiness, though it would certainly be worth it to find out the thoughts of college admissions offices as to the reliability of the test.

    We're on the same page here - less testing, better predictability in testing - we just don't want to start down a road that could very well disconnect parents, kids and our state representation from the local decision making we all appreciate. Thanks for your blog!