Thursday, September 26, 2013

Why not ACT?

I don't know about most of you, but I am confused.  The powers that be decided that Oklahoma needed to adopt the Common Core State Standards.  The rationale behind that decision was if Oklahoma joined the other 47 states and the District of Columbia in adopting CCSS then there would be commonality between the states with regards to academic achievement of students.  The adoption of CCSS didn't bother me at all.  And why should it?  PASS was a set of standards. Common Core is a set of standards.  And as I outlined in my previous post, standards are just simple educational targets of the skills we want our students to know and when we want students to know them!  However, as I also discussed in my previous post, it is the assessment that matters!  Although I do not want to rehash the reasons why the assessment matters, I do want to talk about assessing the college and career readiness that seems to be the central theme in both the CCSS, the C3, and OAsS standards.

The whole stated purpose for the College and Career Readiness assessments was to be able to easily ascertain how Oklahoma students compared to their peers in other states.  This was the basic reasoning as to why Oklahoma decided to transition from the PASS standards to the Common Core State Standards.  The most reliable and valid mechanism to compare Oklahoma students to their peers was if everyone took a common assessment.  PARCC was supposed to be the mechanism that allowed for these state to state/peer to peer comparisons.  But we dropped PARCC because of the testing issues (Was it our fault or the testing companies? This is the conspiracy that will not stop).  So the powers that be decided for our CCR test we would go it alone (can you go it alone in developing your own tests when there are only about 3 testing companies and states like Indiana, Florida, Louisiana, etc who are all doing the same thing).  Yes, our go-it-alone CCR assessment program is now infamously called OCCRA (you can't make this stuff up folks).  The major problem with all of this - Oklahoma educators have no idea what the assessment will look like, so we have no idea how best to prepare our students.

This lack of knowledge about the CCR assessment has been a major hot topic.  And this lack of knowledge is absolutely not necessary! It seems to me that if you really wanted to assess the college and career readiness of our students, then we should just use the test that ALL Oklahoma colleges use for admission:  The ACT test.  It makes perfect sense to me.  Oklahoma can assess students' college and career readiness and compare how their students perform against other states.  This takes care of both the stated purposes of changing to CCSS.  Remember, we changed from PASS to CCSS to be able to compare the academic achievement of our students to other states.  However, Barresi has indicated that the ACT is not a good enough assessment to measure college and career readiness for Oklahoma (you can find the link to her interview saying ACT isn't worthy for Oklahoma here).  Ok, so simple deductive reasoning says that if the ACT is not good enough for Oklahoma, then Barresi must be supporting the SAT.  WHAT?  I don't know if the ACT is a better exam than the SAT.  You can read the Princeton Review about the differences between the ACT and SAT here.  However, I don't have to decide which is the better college and career readiness assessment, Oklahoma colleges have already answered this question.  It is the ACT!

Barresi's statement against the ACT is perplexing.  As a matter of fact, it is down right confusing.  Remember the state of Oklahoma, directly funded by the SDE, pays for every 8th grade student to take the EXPLORE test and every sophomore to take the PLAN test.  Both of which are part of the EPAS (Explore, Plan, ACT) system of college and career readiness Oklahoma schools use to help make guidance suggests for students.  Now Barresi wants to bash the ACT, the final step of the EPAS system, because it does not meet the "standard for excellence in Oklahoma".  WHAT?  I wish she would make up her mind!  She says public schools are failing and we need more accountability against the liberal establishment, yet the ACT doesn't meet the superior standards of excellence for Oklahoma Public Schools.   If she doesn't think the ACT is a quality enough test, then is she for the SAT?  This is problematic for me for several reasons.  First, the people who actually have the final say if a student is college ready are the Oklahoma colleges.  And guess what, every one of them prefer the ACT.  So why does Barresi think she knows more about college readiness than colleges?  Second, Oklahoma just adopted a standards based college and career readiness curriculum (you know OAsS) and the ACT is a standards based college and career content assessment.  The SAT is not a standards based content assessment (If you don't believe me, go back and read the Princeton Review!)  If we are not going to have an assessment based on a set of standards and that assessment does not measure a set of content skills then why have content standards such as OAsS?  

Is it me or does it seem like we are going out of our way to make things as confusing and as difficult as possible.  If you want a satirical example of how crazy all this testing nonsense is becoming, read Rob Miller's portrayal of the "Oklahoma testing standard".  If you are like me, you believe it shouldn't be this controversial or difficult.  What do you do if you want to take a trip to the moon?  Do you call NASA who has been doing space travel for decades, or do you call a start up company who has never built a space ship and ask them to "develop" you a shuttle? If you want to know how Oklahoma students compare to students in other states on a college and career readiness assessment, do you call a company who has never developed a college and career readiness assessment and ask them to develop one, or do you call ACT who has been doing it for more than 50 years?