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New ACT test requirements drawing near

Last Modified: Monday, February 11, 2013 10:27 AM

By Nichole Osinski / American Press

The first ACT test date of 2013 took place Feb. 9. But it will be on March 19 that ACT scores will count for more than college readiness.

This is the first year that all Louisiana juniors will be required to take the ACT along with any seniors who have not yet taken it. Test results will go toward School Performance Scores.

The state will pay for public school students in grades 8-11 to take ACT tests beginning this year as part of the Louisiana Believes plan. Students’ test scores will used to determine student progress and help schools prepare them for life post-high school.

BESE Board Member Holly Boffy said the state is also in the midst of shifting to the Common Core Standards as well as preparing a test that may not be ready until the 2014-2015 school year.

“There has been research that once kids take this test and do well on it that this puts them in a position to consider options they might not have considered before,” Boffy said. “As of now the most rigorous test that exists is the ACT and so this gives our high schools an idea of where the bar is with these new standards and it’s the first step to move us to where we need to be.”

Students in grades 8 through 10 will take ACT prep tests and high school juniors will be required to take the actual ACT test. The tests cover five subjects areas — English, mathematics, reading, science and writing — to measure student achievement. Students will receive individual scores for each subject as well as a composite score for all the subjects.

Students in eighth grade took the EXPLORE test — it is scored on a scale of 0 to 25 — in November and December 2012 while ninth-graders will take the same test March 19. Tenth-graders will take the PLAN test, which is scored on a scale of 0 to 32, on March 19 as well. These ACT-type exams are used to measure students’ academic progress and help schools gather data about strong and weak subject areas.

“The EXPLORER and PLAN are just sort of like benchmark predictors of how the student will score on the ACT if they continue to make academic progress,” Director of High School Curriculum Pat Deaville said. “The state came up with a way of awarding schools with bonus points if children actually met the projections; it proves the schools actually did move the child forward at the appropriate academic pace.”

Deaville said high schools are implementing Response to Intervention to prepare students for testing and help them improve their scores. RTI is used to help students who are struggling in certain subjects, and addressing the courses they are taking by tracking progress and zeroing in on trouble areas.

The ACT scores, scored anywhere from 1 to 36, will count toward 25 percent of the School Performance Score in high schools, with 2.8 points earned for each one point increase in scores between 18 and 36. Schools can receive additional points for students who improve with each series of ACT tests.

Along with the ACT, School Performance Scores can increase due to improvement in areas such as course completion, state standardized tests and class credits.

“I believe that this is going to give kids an opportunity to take the ACT test that never would have had the opportunity,” Supervisor of Assessment Mary Lou Caldarera said. “I just don’t know if all of these students are ready to focus on an ACT test when it is not tied to their grade or their ability to graduate from high school.”

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