Christin K. Johnson (Director of Youth and Pre-College Programs at the United Community
Center) and Laura E. Gutierrez (Assistant Principal and Curriculum Coordinator for Bruce-Guadalupe Community School)
In light of recent articles regarding student assessments, teacher accountability and measuring school performance, we’d like to take the opportunity to weigh in from our perspective. While this publicity has drawn much attention to the educational reform that is occurring– albeit heated and controversial – it is important that administrators, teachers, parents and the public at large not lose sight of the primary goal in education: producing
students with the skills and abilities necessary to achieve success in the career path of their choosing.
For some this may mean first pursuing a bachelor’s degree, for others an apprenticeship…an associate’s, or a Ph.D. Regardless of a student’s desired path and destination, the only measurement tool we are aware of that has proven effective over time in terms of providing students with valuable feedback throughout their journey is the ACT assessment suite. With
fifty years of research behind it, coupled with its alignment to the rigorous College and Career Readiness Standards, the ACT is the ultimate “gate-keeper” to universities as the central United States’ preferred college admissions test. Its precursor assessments –
the EXPLORE and PLAN – provide students with early indicators of their “on-trackness” for college and careers.
Why is it critical to have an understanding of student strengths and skill deficits from early on? The answer is simple…because 8th grade is the critical defining point for students in the development of college and career readiness. Research indicates that “the level of academic achievement that students attain by eighth grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school”(ACT, The Forgotten Middle).
While we will, of course, continue to comply with state-mandated and other proposed student standardized assessment requirements as they ebb and flow, we at the United Community Center/Bruce- Guadalupe Community School have decided to invest in this series of assessments –particularly the EXPLORE Test. Despite the fact that the EXPLORE is normed only on 8th and 9thgraders, we have decided to administer this 2-hour test to ALL students in grades 6-8 (and even to our highest performing fifth graders) to not only provide our students with exposure to a “mini version” of the ACT, but even more importantly, to identify from early on where our students lie on the trajectory of college and career
readiness. Upon obtaining results, we will have, at best, three full years to incorporate data-driven instruction to assist students in achieving “on target” status by 8th grade graduation, providing them with the best fighting chance of experiencing success with their post-secondary plans.
Again, our mission in education should be to best prepare students for college and/or
career readiness and success, and we believe that the ACT assessment suite provides the necessary compass to achieve this. ACT has been the only constant in terms of measuring college readiness and access for the past 50 years…how can we as educators ignore this? While our students’ scores are not yet where we would like them to be, continuing in the direction of early identification/intervention coupled with high expectations and rigor has never before failed us. How can we be so sure that our methods are on-track? It’s difficult to confirm, but ACT’s recent announcement that it is in the process of developing a
new product line – ASPIRE – with “the goal of providing educators, parents and students with the insights they need to help students get and stay on track for college and career readiness starting early in their academic careers” helps boost our confidence that we should stay this course so our students can have the future they desire. (ACT Press Release, 2012).
(Forgotten Middle Executive Summary)
(ASPIRE Press Release)