Supt. Mike Sentance clarified last week during the State Board of Education’s work session that Alabama will use Scantron tests during the 2017-18 school year.
Alabama has had a statewide contract with Scantron for four years that allowed any school statewide to use its diagnostic and interim assessments to inform instruction, and 60-65% of schools have done that. The remaining systems have contracted with other interim assessment providers to provide teachers with formative assessment tools.
In 2017-18, all school systems will be required to give students in grades 3-8 Scantron’s Performance Series assessments. These tests will be used for accountability purposes required under the Every Students Succeeds Act, the federal education law replacing the No Child Left Behind Act.
Three educators from Florence City Schools spoke to the SBOE about their experience using Scantron. Several years ago, Florence received a waiver from the ALSDE to use Scantron instead of the ACT Aspire for accountability. Students took the Performance Series tests at the beginning and the end of the year to measure growth. Teachers could also use Scantron’s Achievement Series of benchmark tests during the year for feedback. The computer adaptive tests allow for an analysis of which standards students have and have not mastered.
Sentance has also proposed using the ACT as the required high school test under the law. He noted Wisconsin and Wyoming as states that have done this successfully. Previously, all students took the 10th grade ACT Aspire, which replaced the PLAN, for federal accountability. But, since 2014, all juniors in Alabama have taken the ACT in the spring. In addition to the ACT, Sentance also suggested offering the PSAT to all juniors in the fall of their junior year in order to make them eligible for National Merit and National Achievement Scholarships.
In June, the SBOE voted to end its contract with ACT Aspire after four years of using that test, and Scantron is being used as a “stopgap” for next year while the state considers what to use for the long term. The state is developing a Request for Bids that it will release in August to solicit bids for tests to use in future years.
A+, along with several other organizations, is encouraging the ALSDE to hold an open process for determining the new test. That process should include a committee representative of all stakeholders and including assessment experts. Whatever test Alabama chooses to use in the future, it must be credible among stakeholders and give students and their parents and teachers clear feedback about where they stand academically.