ACT Aspire Here to Stay?

Allyson Merrill, Editor/Interviewer

Last year in the Fort Smith School District, grades 3-8 and high school took the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) test. The test, unlike the Arkansas Comprehensive Testing, Assessment, and Accountability Program, was given on two different dates, and took many hours to finish. This year, the district will be administering a new test called the ACT Aspire, which, like the PARCC, was created by the Pearson company. It will be given to grades 3-10 and will help predict ACT scores for the current ninth graders when they will be in 11th-12th grade. Also, by using the ACT Aspire, we will no longer be administering the seventh grade science benchmark or eighth grade Explore test.

    If you remember the TLI “chunk” test, we will have similar tests with the ACT Aspire.  They are called interim assessments.

    The exact date(s) of administration have not been determined for our school. The test will be given sometime from April 11 to May 13 . Test sections that will be given during the ACT Aspire are English, reading, math, science, and writing. The duration of the tests is from 30 to 65 minutes, with the times varying for each test depending on grade and test subject. Though it may seem like this many subjects will take much more time, the test is only slated to last four to four-and-a-half hours total.

    “The ACT Aspire is pretty much the same as the PARCC, although it will be shorter and the subjects will not be separated,” said Osbun.

    The sudden change in tests has left many confused as to why the change.
    “Most of the time [when] we are making changes, it is not the result of the school, but the result of the state,” said Ramsey Principal Dennis Siebenmorgen. “That is the reason we are changing. I think the state received a lot of negative feedback regarding the PARCC. As a result of the feedback, the state conducted several regional meetings to hear concerns from stakeholders about the PARCC exam. The final result from the state was to remove the mandatory PARCC exam and start implementing the mandatory ACT Aspire exam.”
    Since the PARCC didn’t stay around long, people have been wondering if the ACT Aspire will stay.
    Siebenmorgen said, “Whichever test we use, I hope we will use the exam for several years. We need to have consistency with an exam that is expected to measure a school. We hope the ACT Aspire exam will better prepare students for the ACT test, which is used by many colleges for entry. Beginning with the ninth grade, the results will give the student a projected ACT score and identify areas of improvement.”

    There is one thing we know for sure.
    “The state has adopted the ACT Aspire, and the ACT Aspire scores will translate into the ACT,” said Bill Osbun, head counselor here at Ramsey.
    As we all know, the PARCC exam was not very popular amongst the students and staff, so will the ACT Aspire be any better?
     “I believe that the ACT Aspire will be better than the PARCC because it is aligned with the ACT,” said Osbun.

    The ACT Aspire will hopefully be the permanent replacement for the PARCC exams, and the results of the ACT Aspire will hopefully show student achievement.