By John R. Schirmer
Students in Nashville and throughout the state will take the ACT and ACT Aspire during the coming academic year in place of the PARCC tests, members of the state Board of Education decided last week.
The change drew favorable comments from Nashville school officials.
“It just makes sense,” Assistant Superintendent Joe Kell said Monday. “We want our kids to go on to further their education. They have to score well on the ACT. Taking Aspire makes sense.”
High school juniors will take the ACT, a nationally recognized college entrance exam. Students in grades 3-8 will take ACT Aspire, a move designed to help them become familiar with ACT. Eighth graders and sophomores already take Explore and PLAN, preliminaries to the ACT.
Superintendent Doug Graham said students will be “more motivated to score well on the ACT [than on PARCC] because it translates into money” for scholarships.
The length of the test is another plus for Aspire, according to Graham. “One thing about PARCC was that we overtested. The average student tested more than nine hours. That had to change. Just with PARCC, not including AP, LEP and others, we way overtested the average student.”
Graham noted that many of the states which originally comprised the PARCC consortium dropped out. “I wasn’t on the public bandwagon backing PARCC. I see some good from the change. I’m excited about ACT.”
ACT and Aspire will be administered online, according to Kell. “We’ve crossed that bridge.
The entire test will be less than four hours. “That has to be a positive. I’m hoping this gives us a chance to not be so test driven day in, day out. We still want to be competitive, but for the last 10-12 years, everybody was so test conscious that it affected every teacher on a daily basis. There were some neat things we missed out on,” Graham said.
Kell said the change means that schools will be “starting over before they have data from last year to look out, but we can used data [from earlier tests] to set goals and go from there.”
Schools will still have the Common Core state standards “for our teachers to use as a road map to hit all the topics,” Kell said.
For Graham, “The key to success is can we get something and see it through? This is the third state test in three years, with the Benchmarks, PARCC and ACT. The key is to see it through and let our teachers have a year or two to figure out ways to teach the standards. We need to have some longevity to compare scores.”