The agenda for the Alabama State Board of Education work session for December 11 shows the second topic to be “Student Assessment Report”.
While it hasn’t been confirmed, some of us are hoping that State Superintendent Dr. Tommy Bice will share the long-awaited and much-anticipated statewide results from last spring’s inaugural ACT Aspire administration for grades three through eight.
No doubt these results will be thrown around to serve whomever’s political agenda needs serving at the moment.
Those who favor pushing more school choice will use the results to beat the public schools over the head.
Those who want to show how underfunded public schools are will use the results to beat the legislature over the head.
But what do these results really show?
Or a harder question: Are we ready for what these results really show?
Apples and Oranges
First, let’s put the obvious out on the table: the ACT Aspire results CANNOT be compared to the ARMT+ results.
The ARMT+ was a very low bar. Everybody says so. Now.
No, they didn’t say it when the ARMT was designed and implemented in 2005, and the test creators at the Alabama State Department of Education were so proud that we finally had a test to measure what we here in Alabama believed was important for our children to learn.
It was such an incredible expression of our individuality! Everyone was on board. Everyone thought that we had finally found the Magic Ticket to show how well our students were learning in our schools.
That mean old Stanford Achievement Test (SAT-9 and then SAT-10) just didn’t reflect what we believed was important for our children to learn here in Alabama.
It didn’t align with the Alabama Course of Study.
So we created the ARMT! And then the ARMT+!
Now we could be proud and show the rest of the world how awesomely fantasticly brilliant our children are.
At learning stuff in school.
After a number of years of being extraordinarily proud of ourselves and how well our children were all doing on our homemade test, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) created a fabulous (and disturbing) way for Alabamians to look at the ARMT through the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) lens.
And the view was, well, kinda fuzzy.
Which meant one thing: our bar was far too low.
But it made us feel good for a little while.
The New Bar – A National Bar
We have a new bar. We have hit “reset” on the benchmark button.
We have a national bar.
Forget what you knew about the ARMT and the ARMT+.
The ACT Aspire is a national test, a criterion referenced test, which means that rather than measure a child’s results against another child’s results, called norm-referenced (which then ranks children in order of who gets how many questions right), the resulting “scale score” is a measure of how well the child has learned the standards as measured by the test.
If you’re interested, here’s the difference between criterion- and norm-referenced tests.
The ACT Aspire is designed to show whether a student is on track to graduate college- and career-ready. The ACT Aspire is based around the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks.
Examine These Results Through a New Lens
If we are serious about moving away from a homemade test to a national test that is designed to measure where our children are on their journey to college- and career-readiness, then we must look at the ACT Aspire results through a new lens.
School officials have had their student’s results since September.
While a few districts have shared their excitement about their students’ results, most have kept mum.
That tells me that predictions of lower-than-expected scores have likely come true.
It’s kind of like when I got that new, well-calibrated scale in my bathroom. I didn’t necessarily like what I saw, but at least I knew how far I needed to go.
When these results are released, don’t be too quick to judge.
Don’t buy into the hype and headlines screaming about lower test scores.
There will likely be only a few of us having a real discussion about what these test scores show and the road ahead.
Join me here and on the ASC Facebook page if you’d like to accompany me on that journey.
Planning to live-blog here assuming traffic cooperates and the alarm clock goes off as planned.