High School Student Achievement Tests Change Again – Blamed on Budget
Alabama’s high school students’ standardized tests just changed. Again. Appears money is to blame.
The first change involves the ACT. Instead of requiring 11th graders to take the ACT plus writing in the spring of 2014, only the ACT will be given. No writing. (UPDATE: August 7, 2013: The ACT with writing is back on again.)
The second change has to do with end-of-course tests. In a memo dated July 12 and sent to all city and county superintendents, State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice said that some “end-of-course assessments have been delayed” due to “budget constraints”. So ACT’s QualityCore End-of-Course (EOC) tests for the spring of 2014 have been limited to two subjects administered this past spring: English 10 and Algebra I. The results of these particular two tests are used as part of the new accountability measures approved in Alabama’s waiver request.
[For a complete understanding of how achievement test results will fit into the new accountability measures, read this about the School Performance Index, where the results of these tests will be used.]
Plans to administer EOC tests in the following additional subjects in the spring of 2014 have been canceled:
- English 9
- English 11
- Algebra II
- U.S. History
So the Alabama High School Graduation Exam (AHSGE) has been discontinued for all but incoming 12th graders, and plans have been scrapped for EOCs to replace the AHSGE (other than English and Math) for incoming 9th, 10th, and 11th graders.
Sure, each school will still give tests and grades, but there will be no basis for comparison should one need to compare results from multiple high schools.
In this document (a Frequently Asked Questions on EOC tests), QualityCore assessments’ comparability was touted: “Reports for EOC assessments provide local and state comparisons of students’ performance within each course, as well as an evaluation of students’ progress toward college readiness unique to each course. The QualityCore EOC assessment score reports also include estimated student scores on the PLAN/ACT assessments, which help teachers and students evaluate progress toward college and career readiness.”
Guess that wasn’t as important as we first thought it was.
It is unknown whether the problems Kentucky experienced with Quality Core’s End-of-Course online administration of tests had any impact on this decision. And while I have read no official reporting on administration of EOC testing in Alabama this past spring, I heard anecdotal (and unofficial) reports that the logistics of online testing of high school students proved challenging for some districts. Maybe it really was just the money.
Here’s what the revised test implementation schedule looks like as of July 3.
The Cost of EOC Testing
The ALSDE picked up the cost of all EOC tests last spring. In this document (a Frequently Asked Questions on EOC tests) question #68 questioned the cost to systems. Here’s the answer: “The ALSDE will pay for the QualityCore EOC assessments according to the state assessment schedule. However, systems may purchase additional QualityCore EOC assessments at the state contract price of $17.75 per assessment for multiple-choice/multiple-choice assessments and $21.25 per assessment for multiple-choice/constructed-response assessments.”
ACT’s web site quotes a cost of $19 per student for multiple choice or $23 per student for multiple choice plus constructed response tests.
At the current time, the ALSDE’s public data reports are not accessible (report links aren’t working), so I can’t provide a good estimate of costs to the ALSDE for EOC tests. But looking at the newly-released Alabama Education Report Card for the 2011-2012 school year, assuming about 50,000 students per grade based on numbers of students in the 3rd through 8th grade, we’re looking at about $1 million per subject test by grade level. [This is a very crude calculation based on possibly-faulty assumptions. But without the numbers in each grade, a good calculation isn’t possible.]
This report from the Brookings Institution in November 2012 states that Alabama spent a little more than $2 million to administer the AHSGE in 2011. That was five subjects.
Maybe you get what you pay for. I surely hope so.
I’m still trying to figure out the true cost and implications of this change, but wanted to share these changes quickly. I am waiting on responses from the ALSDE about the cost of EOC testing. I will update if the information changes.