michael kors wristlet From left, Scot Frein, director of federal and state advocacy for ACT Inc.; Sherril Parris, deputy state superintendent of education, and Tommy Bice, state superintendent of education, discuss Alabama's new suite of assessments from ACT Inc. (Evan Belanger/Alabama Media Group) |
Beginning this month, Alabama's publicschool system will become the first in the nation to implement a suite of K-12assessments from ACT Inc., the makers of the most commonly used college-entranceexam in the South.
But State Superintendent of Education Tommy Bice cautionedtoday that the new assessments are not meant to rank schools or assess teachersand that their scores should not be compared to the results of the state's oldtesting regimen.
"If we begin to use it for something that is unintended other than to inform instruction then it will do the same thing that we justdid under No Child Left Behind," he said during a press briefing.
According to Bice, using the assessments as the soleaccountability measure for teachers and schools would create the opportunityfor the tests to become the curriculum as they did under NCLB.
Proposing that the assessments be just one piece of a "balanced"accountability system, Bice said the most effective assessments of students arethose created by teachers on a day-to-day and week-to-week basis.
He gave few details of how the balanced accountabilitysystem would assess and hold educators accountable, but he said the AlabamaState School Board would discuss the matter during its 8:30 a.m. work sessionThursday at the Gordon Person's Building in Montgomery.
Bice also warned that comparing the results from the newassessments to the old, discontinued assessments such as the Alabama Readingand Math Test or the Alabama High School Graduation Exam would create a false perceptionthat student academic performance is declining.
What will really be occurring, he said, is that the newassessments are more accurately measuring whether students will be prepared forcollege or career upon graduation.
"What we were testing was not aligned with the assessmentsthat are used in our community colleges, our four-year colleges or business andindustry," Bice said of the old tests.
And the Alabama State Board of Education apparently agrees withhis cautionary words on how to use the new assessments.
Voting unanimously today with a single absence due toillness the board approved a resolution declaring that the new assessmentresults would only be used to inform parents of student performance and guide teacherand school instructional practices for the first year.
During the press briefing, school officials touted thebenefits of the new assessments, saying they are better aligned with the needsof colleges and business and industry.
They also said the assessments will give parents easier tounderstand results, projecting the child's ACT college-entrance exam score ifhe or she remains on the same track. Bice said they would better guide teachersand school administrators on students' individual needs.
School also officials pointed out that the new assessmentstake only two to four hours to complete, versus five days for the oldassessment system.
As to Alabama being the first state to use the new suite oftests, which begin in the third grade and continue annually through graduation,Bice said he is not concerned even though most other states are opting for the federallyfunded assessments associated with the Common Core State Standards Initiative.
"I think it's realimportant to acknowledge that ACT as a testing company has 50 years of researchbehind it," he said. "I don't want to throw any other testing consortia underthe bus, but they're the new ones."
As part of the new suite of assessments, the state is forthe first time this year is paying for all 11th graders to take theACT college-entrance exam. Bice said that would help identify students who maydo well in college, but who did not plan to take the test either because theycan't afford it or assumed they would test poorly.
"We're not saying that every child in Alabama needs to go tocollege and get a four-year degree and PhD in chemical engineering," he said.
"What this board made the decision to do is make sure thatevery child that graduates from an Alabama high school has a choice, and theycan only have a choice if we've prepared them as if that is their option."
Bice's chief of staff, Craig Pouncey, said the new suite ofACT assessments will cost the state about million annually to administer,which is roughly equivalent to spending under the old assessments. Thatincludes the cost of each student taking the college-entrance exam, which wasnot covered before, he said.
The new assessments include ACT Aspire, which measures academicachievement in English, math, reading, science and writing in grades threethrough 10.
It also includes ACT WrokKeys, which is a job-skillsassessment for high school seniors, and ACT QualityCore, which is used to helpeducators better prepare students for college and workforce training.
Like the federally funded testing consortia, the new ACTtests are aligned with Alabama's controversial Common Core standards for mathand English, though Bice said the federally funded tests were not aligned withthe rest of Alabama's academic standards.
Bice also said the new assessments would eventually be usedin the application of the Alabama Accountability Act, which identifiesso-called failing schools and enables students to transfer to either a privateschool or a non-failing school in the same system with state funding.
"We're not exactly sure how yet," he said. "We'll figurethat out when the results come in because we have to concur with the law movingforward."
In deeply personal responses, dozens of former inmates, family members of current inmates and volunteers with prison ministries have given detailed accounts of how their experiences with the facility continue to affect their lives.
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