Last week, the Alabama State Board of Education voted to do away with its ACT Aspire test. The vote was unanimous.
Alabama catches a bad rap for education — former Gov. Robert Bentley infamously stated that “our education system in this state sucks.” Now, that’s obviously not an accurate representation of our state’s education system, and it’s foolish to provide a blanket statement like that that’s not at all constructive. But, for the test the state has been using as the barometer for students’ success in the classroom to be shut down after only three full school years, definitely shows some cause for concern.
According to Fort Payne City School Superintendent Jim Cunningham, the purpose of the test was to help further develop reading and math skills in students grades three through eight and then again in 10th grade.
He said it was necessary to change from previous state developed tests to the Aspire testing because of the shift to Common Core standards, but the cumulative scores on Aspire in that timespan did not yield the same reward from the two previous state developed tests.
According to DeKalb County Superintendent Jason Barnett, the test results were only given back to educators mid-June, which didn’t give he, principals or teachers adequate time to address the issues.
Cunningham agreed and said that he was promised results by May 31. These tests are for student and teacher accountability, and they need a quick turnaround to make sure they can develop plans to address gaps in the school system.
So, it makes sense why the state would decide to ditch the test altogether.
The two men seemed to agree that the test wasn’t necessarily an accurate evaluation of a student’s progress over the course of the year — at least not compared to other testing programs. The U.S. Department of Education even questioned the validity of Aspire to properly evaluate teachers’ instruction.
For the time being, teachers will revert back to previous testing methods in order to determine their students and their own progress over the course of the school year. The test is formative, which means it will be given throughout the year to gauge how a student has improved in certain subjects.
Educators are fighting an everyday battle — it’s bad enough when your own governor says your school system “sucks.” Students learn at different speeds and thrive in different subjects. So, the state needs to come up with some sort of way to accurately determine where a student’s strengths and weaknesses lie, and they need to be able to present these results in a timely matter so that educators can mold their methods in order to help students.
But, there may not be a one-size-fits-all solution. At the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to give each and every student the best possible chance for success beyond high school, and we know our superintendents and teachers are doing just that.
So, in a way, we appreciate the state backing out of a test that appeared to not serve that purpose.
Let’s just hope they find a solution soon. Until then, as Barnett said, teachers have to just “keep focusing on teaching kids the best we can every single day.”
Our View is the opinion of the Times-Journal’s editorial board, which includes Publisher Tricia Clinton-Dunne and Managing Editor Bradley Roberts.