Putting Education Reform To The Test

With Test Decision Soon, ACT Launches New Florida Website

A screenshot from the ACTAspireFlorida.org website. The state is expected to choose a new exam in March.


A screenshot from the ACTAspireFlorida.org website. The state is expected to choose a new exam in March.

Testing firm ACT has launched a website to advertise and educate the public about its new exam as the Florida Department of Education decides which test will mostly replace the FCAT.

The ACT Aspire is one of five exams which submitted bids to become Florida’s test for use with new Common Core math and language arts standards. The American Institutes for Research, CTB/McGraw Hill, McCann Associates and Pearson also submitted bids.

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart said she will recommend a new exam in March. That could be one of the five bidders, or she could recommended another choice.

ACT spokesman Dianne Bean said the site, ACTAspireFlorida.org, could help answer questions about the new exam.

“A lot of people don’t know much about assessments,” she said, other than just “hearing things.”

“We’re a reputable company that’s been around a long time.”

But Bean also admitted the site was, at least in part, a response to the two multi-state consortia which are designing tests with a federal grant. Those two groups, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers and Smarter Balanced, have been fairly open about the test design and have posted many example questions at their websites.

Florida was managing the money for PARCC, before lawmakers and Gov. Rick Scott raised concerns about the test’s cost and how much testing time PARCC requires.

Aspire will have a 60-minute reading portion, a 30-minute writing portion, a 30- to 40-minute English section and math and science exams which are 55- to 65-minute each.

That total testing time is less than what has been announced by PARCC. However, the ACT Aspire exam does not appear to have any of the more time-consuming — and perhaps challenging — performance tasks which PARCC and Smarter Balanced will have.

The ACT Aspire has been field tested, Bean said, and Alabama will use the exam this spring. PARCC is conducting field tests this spring, including in Hillsborough County schools.

The ACTAspire will cost $20 per student, compared to $29.50 per student for PARCC.

Florida is one of 45 states which has fully adopted the Common Core standards. Those math and language arts standards outline what students should know at the end of each grade and make most of the current FCAT exam obsolete.


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