Saturday, February 7, 2015

ACT Is Not The Way...

Because there will never be a legislative session begin without some kind of liberty emergency (apparently; see here and here), we're starting right away with a considerable threat to our state sovereignty brought about by a challenge to HB3399 - the bill to stop Common Core in Oklahoma.

The threat results from a kind of two-prong legislative approach. One comes from Senator John Ford through his bill SB707 and Senator Clark Jolley's bill SB784.

Senator Ford's bill says this (Section 2B1, page 4, lines 22-24)
The subject matter standards and corresponding student assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics shall be solely approved and controlled by the state through the State Board of Education, and the corresponding student assessments for English Language Arts and Mathematics shall be solely approved by the state through the State Board of Education.
When reading a bill, understand that crossed-through text is being DELETED and underlined text is being ADDED. So what does this bill now do? The worst possible thing it could do - it puts into place the ability to use Common Core-aligned tests by removing the "corresponding student assessments" language present in the original bill. Now, standards do not have to CORRESPOND to the tests. We specifically asked for this language as whatever is TESTED is TAUGHT. We believed that if we tied the standards to the tests and the standards COULDN'T be Common Core, than neither could the tests. Ford's bill detaches the standards from the tests. This will allow Common Core-aligned tests back into use though the Common Core standards have been removed by law.

Senator Jolley's bill says this (Section 1B, lines 14-22)
Prior to the 2017-2018 school year, the State Board of Education shall consider and review a standards-based system of assessment that monitors progress toward college and career readiness for grades three through ten. Should the system of assessments align with eighty percent (80%) of the standards adopted pursuant to Section 11-103.6a of this title, the State Board of Education shall be authorized to use the system of assessments in lieu of the assessments otherwise required by this section. 
This is a problem for this reason: if Ford's bill passes, any Common Core-aligned test may be used by the state to test students. If it doesn't pass, Jolley's bill says that tests only have to be 80% aligned to standards.


Enter the ACT. For months and months we have heard school administrators (and a few legislators) say they wanted to do away with EOI's and use the ACT. The argument has extended to the notion that we should do away with other K-12 tests and use the ACT because it is "college and career ready" and could be used to make sure students are on track to graduate as early as 3rd grade. Obviously, the high school tests could be used as an exit exam of sorts as it is taken by thousands of students prior to graduation in order to use the results on college entrance applications.

Here's the problem with ACT. It is Common Core aligned. Yes, ACT has a number of products - not just one test - but apparently, they are if not fully aligned, somewhat aligned to Common Core. I have done all kinds of internet searches on "ACT Common Core Aligned" and found numerous articles substantiating this claim.

ACT says, about its ACT Aspire product (under features),
Now, again, there are many other ACT products, but from researching their website and from reading articles about their new 'direction', it is clear that ACT products are either fully aligned or somewhat aligned.
ACT reviews the ACT College and Career Readiness Standards regularly as part of an ongoing validity process. That process, which includes analysis of the results of the 2012 ACT National Curriculum Survey®, showed us there was a need to reformat our standards to reflect more of the language of the many sets of college and career readiness standards being used by states (of which the Common Core State Standards are one).
It's nearly impossible to say how much aligned ACT is with Common Core anymore, because the URL on their website that addresses Common Core ( is not viewable. I found it inside an article, (HB5 and The Path To Common Core) while searching (as I mentioned above) and was surprised when I couldn't view it in my web browser.

In addition, an article in the Daily Signal (Common Core: Homeschoolers Face New Questions on College Admissions) says,
In 2010, the ACT also released "The Alignment of Common Core and ACT's College and Career Readiness System" which offers assurance that the "ACT pledges to work with other stakeholders to develop strategies and solutions that maximize the coverage of the Common Core State Standards to meet the needs of states, districts, schools and students."
Please note, when you click on the link provided in the article, it goes to a broken link on the ACT website.

Bob Lang, the Director of the Wisconson Legislative Fiscal Bureau, in a document the subject of which was tagged, "2013 Act 20 Fiscal Estimate of Implementation or Rejection of Common Core Standards" writes,
According to ACT and the College Board, both the ACT and SAT, as well as the PSAT and Advanced Placement tests, align to a large degree with the common core.
And so it goes. ACT - just like SAT - will now test Common Core Standards. Certainly, this was one reason ROPE opposed the Common Core in the FIRST place - alignment of states to one set of standards tends to (and does) restrict heterogeneity so that everything from curricula to tests become sodden with "Common Core State Standards"-aligned material.

It seems reasonable here to assume that, as David Coleman (the author of Common Core) moved to the College Board from Student Achievement Partners (a division of Achieve) and began aligning the SAT (and AP courses) with the Common Core, ACT felt it had to "Join Or Die". It began diligently aligning the ACT to the Common Core to keep pace with its competitor. Once the roar of parental voices against Common Core became a din, ACT began re-thinking its move to alignment. Unable to completely re-write their tests again (a very expensive proposition) they simply, quietly, removed many of the red arrows pointing to the change in test structure for those looking at their product.

Consequently, while ACT may not appear as aligned to Common Core as SAT, the signs, statements and indications are all there that alignment has been made. This may be the exact reason for the wording of Senator Jolley's bill - 20% alignment to Common Core may be all that's necessary to pull Common Core back into Oklahoma. After all, we've not yet created Oklahoma's standards. Having the ability to use a Common Core aligned test already in STATE LAW, could it be out of the realm of possibility that Oklahoma's new standards could fall in line?

Here's the most important part of this post (possibly!). There are OTHER testing companies out there that provide tests geared toward state specifications - as well as out-of-the-box tests - that are NOT aligned to Common Core. Two of these are the Iowa Tests and the Stanford Tests. Both of these companies should be solicited to present their products before the state board. It could only serve to educate Board members, administrators and parents as to the other possibilities in the testing world.

Superintendent Hofmeister has started off her tenure well. We certainly intend to continue supporting her and working with her to the best of our abilities, we just believe research isn't a bad thing, and providing that research in order to help inform decisions can't be a bad thing either.

Adding a few more links with information indicating ACT is Common Core aligned.

Standardized Testing in Alabama and Nationwide Thomas Rains, Policy Director December 2013

Student's Scores Low Under New State Test

College and Career Prep To Start In The Third Grade