Local supers support axing ACT Aspire testing

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 11, 2017

Local superintendents say they support a proposed change to the standardized test currently administered annually to public school students.

Students across the state have performed terribly on the ACT Aspire.

Across the board, proficiency levels have not been more than 50 percent in reading since 2014. They have been only slightly better in math. Science seems to be the worst of all, ranging from 23 to 39 percent.

The ACT Aspire replaced the ARMT, and is given to students in third through eighth grades, and to sophomores.

The ACT is given to juniors, and the WorkKeys test is given to seniors.

There has been speculation about whether the test is aligned properly with Alabama standards.

For the 2014-2015 school year, 42.31 percent did not meet academic content standards for third grade reading. Some 37.70 percent met or exceeded academic standards.

For the same year and same grade in Covington County Schools, 43.08 percent did not meet academic content standards in reading. Some 31.62 percent met or exceeded academic standards.

At Opp 28.16 percent did not meet academic content standards in third grade reading. Still, 52.43 percent of their third graders met or exceeded expectations.

State Superintendent Michael Sentance is supposed to ask federal education officials for a waiver to not test students while it considers which test is best suited for state standards.

Andalusia City Schools Superintendent Ted Watson said Wednesday he believes doing away with the ACT Aspire is a good idea.

“What happens is that test is written by a company that creates tests to measure ability,” he said. “There is nothing standard wise that we have been able to get landmarks. We don’t know why we did good or bad. We don’t know what standards we performed well on. You test to get better.”

Opp City Schools Superintendent Michael Smithart echoed Watson’s thoughts.

“It would be a step in the right direction,” he said. “ACT Aspire is a great instrument when it is utilized for its intended purpose. The problem is that it is tied to our accountability model and it was not developed for that purpose.”

Smithart said, “We need assessments developed by Alabama educators that are a measure of what is being taught in Alabama classrooms. “

Both Watson and Smithart discussed the frustrations for teachers changing from test to test.

“It’s a real morale buster,” Watson said. “I feel sorry for our teachers. They get a handle on one and then it changes up. I hope that we can get a test and stick with it.”

Smithart said she didn’t know if it was strain or frustration on his teachers.

“Our teachers and students need some consistency in our assessments and we need to actually measure what we expect our teacher to teach and our students to learn,” he said.