By JANET METZNER
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice’s idea to adopt the ACT as the only statewide assessment for West Virginia high school students leaves some educators questioning how it will be used and whether it’s the best idea for all graduates.
Because the ACT assessment focuses on students who plan more schooling after graduation, but not on those seeking careers immediately after high school, it might not be the best assessment for everyone, said Robin Daquilante, superintendent of Tyler County Schools.
“I think we have to have a test that would accommodate both college-ready students and career-ready students,” she said.
For example, in the past, career-tech students were tested in their particular field to earn credentials in their area of training, Daquilante said.
On Wednesday, during his State of the State address at the Capitol in Charleston, Justice proposed changing the state’s chosen assessment tool.
“We are testing our kids totally to death,” Justice said. “If we were knocking it out of the park, you could argue with me we’re doing the right thing. But for crying out loud, we’re dead last,” he said, referring to some scores. ” … We (have) got to be doing something wrong.”
As a solution, “I am going to propose we throw Smarter Balanced in the trash can and we go to ACT testing,” he said, referring also to ACT Aspire for younger students.
Smarter Balanced is the federal initiative under the Every Student Succeeds Act that in 2015 replaced the No Child Left Behind Act. Smarter Balanced requires each state to develop a student assessment.
West Virginia’s assessment is titled the West Virginia General Summative Assessment and it’s currently used statewide, as required in state code.
Wheeling Park High School Principal Amy Minch said there could be some benefits to using only the ACT.
For example, taking the ACT would benefit more students, specifically those who are going into a two-year higher education program, but don’t need it for college admission.
“It’s not going to hurt them to take it,” she said.
And, if the ACT is required, the state would pay the cost for students to take it, alleviating that cost that students currently have to pay, she said.
However, details such as during which school year a student would have to take it still have to be clarified before she would support the change, she said.
The ACT that Justice wants to adopt is a college admissions test for high school students. ACT Aspire, the program Justice wants to use for the younger set, assesses college- and career-readiness for students in grades 3-8 and early high school, according to the ACT website.
College-bound students already prepare for and take the ACT test, because higher education institutions use it to determine students’ admissions and funding, Minch said. It’s also used for qualifying for the state’s PROMISE Scholarship.
On Wednesday, members of the Senate Education Committee moved on the governor’s idea by introducing Senate Bill 18, which would require “ACT and ACT Aspire to be used as the comprehensive statewide student assessment,”beginning in the 2017-18 school year.
The bill first will be considered by the Senate Education Committee before it goes before the Senate Finance Committee.
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