More rigorous standardized test coming to Alabama

Alabama has adopted more rigorous standardized tests that will bring clarity to the assessment process. While necessary to ensure clarity in our education system, Alabama will more than likely need to prepare for drops in test scores in the next two years.

The drops will like come from two policy changes:

1. Percentage of students deemed “proficient” in grades 3-8 will like decline due to the new Aspire tests being aligned with the more rigorous College and Career Ready Standards.

Alabama’s new academic standards raise the bar academically for students. As a result, students will have to perform at a higher level on the CCRS-aligned Aspire in order to be deemed “proficient” in reading and math. Students will begin to achieve proficiency but it will take a year or more for these scores to accurately reflect the work being performed in the classroom.

The Aspire will judge students more like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), also known as the Nation’s Report Card. The NAEP is given to a random sample of students nationwide every two years. NAEP questions are more in-depth than the Alabama Reading and Mathematics Test (ARMT) questions and are often open-ended instead of multiple choice. Additionally, the NAEP uses higher cut scores to determine who is deemed proficient.

2. All graduating students will have taken the ACT and the percentage of students meeting the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks will drop. (Previously, students electively took the ACT in applying for college.)

In 2015, all of Alabama’s graduating high school students will have taken the ACT for the first time. Starting in 2014 with juniors (the Class of 2015) Alabama will pay for all students to take the ACT. Previously, only students considering college would take the ACT. (In 2013, this was 78 percent of Alabama high school graduates.) This larger pool of test-takers will likely result in a decline in the percentage of Alabama students deemed “college ready” by the ACT benchmarks discussed above.

There is always an adjustment period for any significant period of change. Alabama students are learning with a higher bar and we will find that they will rise to the occasion.

-Leah Garner