In 2011, the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction implemented a plan to begin administering three new assessments (the ACT, PLAN, and WorkKeys) in preparation for the state’s new accountability model. They also intend for these new assessments to provide additional diagnostic information for public school students and their teachers.
What does this mean in plain English? These tests are going to be used to predict a student’s academic readiness for college, and eventually, schools will be held accountable for the results (or lack of results) that derive from these tests. The state has decided that many students who are graduating from North Carolina high schools are not ready for college. By moving to this new educational model and (eventually) structuring their curriculum around it, they hope to begin turning out graduates who are more competitive with those who come from private schools in North Carolina and from school systems in other states. Unfortunately, this alignment in curriculum will not begin until next year, leaving this year’s junior class quite unprepared.
Using the ACT as a measure of accountability is a long-term plan for North Carolina, but it’s being implemented very quickly. The first test to be administered as part of the new initiative, the PLAN, did not go smoothly in all instances. In one area school, students were told that they could not use calculators, and as a result, many students took the PLAN without having access to a calculator (just for the record, calculators are absolutely permitted for the math component of the PLAN and ACT).
For students who are currently high school juniors, this information should be a bit frightening, because the ACT Plus Writing is coming up in March. The curriculum has not prepared them for the test, because there simply hasn’t been time. The test results will be used to show whether students are ready for college, community college and work, and how well their schools are preparing them. It has not been made clear how the information will show up on school transcripts, but clearly the best approach for students is to prepare for the test and to do well on it.
Unfortunately, while some of the high schools in the Asheville area have been very good about getting information to students and parents about the ACT, some schools have not communicated this information effectively. This means that students may be unprepared for the ACT, a test that is extremely difficult to perform well on without an understanding of what is on the test. The State Board of Education had envisioned offering a summer academic boot camp for rising seniors who did not perform well on the ACT, but that idea has been pushed aside because there’s no money for it.
The ACT requires a specific approach. In order to obtain a good score, a student must understand the amount of material that they will be required to process, as well as the time constraints involved. Students must familiarize themselves with the material and practice taking the test under timed conditions.
For more information about the ACT, see our ACT FAQ or give Chyten a call at (828) 505-2495.