Word on the street is that the ACT Aspire results have been released to schools and districts…and will be heading home to students’ families in the near future.
The ACT Aspire reading and math tests were administered to students in the 3rd through 8th grades in the spring of 2014.
The idea behind using the full ACT series was to allow parents to understand the trajectory (meaning the pathway) their child was on as the child headed toward taking The ACT Plus Writing in the 11th grade. The ACT Plus Writing is a commonly accepted college entrance exam across the South.
The ACT Aspire results look different than the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test (ARMT+), the test that the ACT Aspire has replaced. The biggest difference is the use of visuals as opposed to only numbers.
The idea, however, is pretty much the same.
While the ARMT+ generated a Level I, II, III, or IV based on whether a child didn’t meet, partially met, met or exceeded the standards, the ACT Aspire uses four levels with different names.
Both the ARMT+ and the ACT Aspire utilized scale scores. Here is information from ACT about the scale scores and how they were generated. Below are the Score Scales for Math and Reading, the two tests that are mandated by the ALSDE.
The Scale then translates to a readiness indicator of either “in need of support”, “close”, “ready” or “exceeding”, similar to the four levels of the ARMT.
The benchmarks are visually represented and explained further in the report a child’s parent will receive.
The reports below contain results for more than just Reading and Math, so your report may look different from the one below depending on how many subjects on which your child was assessed. Remember, while the ALSDE only required testing in Reading and Math for 2013-2014, school districts had the option of testing students in all five areas: Reading, Math, Writing, English, and Science.
Beginning in Spring 2015, students in grades 5 and 7 will take the science portion, and STEM scores will be calculated for those students in those grades to share with parents and teachers.
The report shows a prototype of ACT Aspire results for a student in grade 5.
Here is the 2014-2015 interpretive guide from ACT Aspire for students and parents to understand in detail what all this stuff means.
Here is ACT Aspire’s Alabama site.
Here is a full set of reports, including what teachers receive, posted on the ACT Aspire web site.
Here’s what the ARMT student test result report looked like (on page 20 of the linked document, and depicted below).
The ACT Aspire is certainly visually easier on the eyes. However, the over-simplification of the reporting categories on the ACT Aspire compared with the information in the “Content Standards” on the ARMT report appears to give parents less information about mastery of specific standards than the ARMT results give.
Because of this, parents must be vigilant in understanding which content standards students are expected to master in each grade and which standard falls under which category.
For example, which grade-specific standards fall under “Justification and Explanation” in Math? Which grade-specific standards fall under “Craft and Structure” in Reading?
Perhaps the ALSDE or other educational authority will provide more detail or some type of crosswalk in the future. For this year, you will likely need to ask school folks if you have questions about specifics.
What to DO with the Results
Regardless of the visual appeal or specificity of the report, it’s knowing what to do with the results that matters.
If your child is at or above the benchmark, you may be inclined to pay less attention to what those standards are, but you should do that at your own (and your child’s) risk.
Students can stumble anywhere along the spectrum, at any time during any school year. Staying on top of what your child should know all along the way, i.e., what the content standards are, helps you see red flags early, before your child’s semester grade slips or your child falls far behind.
If your child has not reached a benchmark, you must ask questions about the school’s plan to help your child master that standard.
Request a conference with your child’s current teacher. State that you need to discuss the previous year’s ACT Aspire results.
Please do not wait. And please do not take no for an answer.
Your child needs you to help figure out what happened and why the test showed your child as not reaching the benchmark.
Bring your child’s test results with you when you meet with the teacher.
Ask very specific questions such as:
- Will my child be given an opportunity to master that standard?
- How can my child master that standard?
- Are there resources here at this school to help my child master that standard?
- Who at the school will ensure that my child is given the resources to master that standard?
If you are not given satisfactory responses to your questions, or if your child’s teacher says something like “don’t worry about it, we will reteach that this year” and tries to dismiss your concerns, you may need to meet with the school counselor or an administrator at the school.
While it is true that the results only “reflect one day in the spring” (a phrase often heard from school officials and administrators), the test should adequately reflect what your child has learned in the course of that school year.
And catching up gets harder and harder the farther a child falls behind.
Standards build upon each other. If your child has difficulty with a standard that is the building block for future learning (which is the idea behind the Alabama College and Career Ready Standards), that next level of content will be very difficult for your child to learn.
The Actual Standards
Beginning October 6, the public (that’s us!) will have a chance to review and comment on each standard in each grade. At the September State Board of Education work session, State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice stated that standards will be posted on the Alabama State Department of Education web site, one grade level per week beginning with Kindergarten, to allow the public to read, review, and comment on the standards. Input and comment will be synthesized and changes based on the comments may be made.
More on that campaign soon.