State ditches ACT Aspire

Published 5:51 pm Friday, June 23, 2017

ACT Aspire has gotten the ax, according to the Alabama state board of education.

The board voted unanimously to not renew its contract with the standardized test after four years of using the program.

ACT Aspire is given to students in grades three through eight, and then again in tenth grade, as a means of helping students prepare for the proper ACT college entrance exam.

State superintendent Michael Sentence cited “several issues” with the most recent iteration of the test, including how the receipt of results was delayed as well as incorrect data once the results were received.

Results from the ACT Aspire tests administered during the spring 2017 semester were originally promised to be delivered at the end of May, but the deadline was delayed until June 12.

ACT Aspire ultimately proved just as contentious as its predecessor, the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test, which had few fans within the Butler County School System.

Cindy Wilson, testing coordinator for Butler County Schools, called the test too easy to properly prepare students for the actual ACT, which all students take in 11th grade.

“The ARMT was almost like everyone had figured it out toward the end,” she said.  “For me, it just wasn’t showing a true indication of how the students were doing because everyone was just blowing it out of the water by the time we changed over.”

Since the first ACT Aspire tests were given, not even half of Alabama’s students across all six tested grade levels have managed to meet the proficiency requirements of the test’s reading portion (eighth graders came the closest in 2014 with 48 percent).

The figures for the math portion are a bit higher among younger students (as high as 59 percent among third graders in 2016), but those numbers plummet among older students (only 27 percent of eighth graders were proficient in 2015).

In science, the proficiency level hovered between 23 percent for sophomores in 2016 to 39 percent for fifth graders that same year.

According to Sentence, federal officials rejected a recent request for an assessment waiver, adding that a waiver might not be necessary.

A replacement for ACT Aspire has not been decided upon. But Scantron, known previously as GlobalScholar, will be used for the 2017-2018 school year.

Scantron assessments are perhaps best known for their machine-readable paper forms on which students mark answers to multiple-choice tests before using an imaging scanner to quickly grade them.

Though the ACT Aspire test has been nixed in Alabama schools, both the ACT and the ACT WorkKeys assessments will continue to be given to high school juniors and seniors respectively.