In high school, ACT test now assessment tool

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 4, 2012

By David Vitrano


RESERVE – Among the many changes wrought by the sweeping education reform package, which sailed through the Louisiana Legislature during its last session, are changes to student assessment and accountability. These changes have been largely overlooked amid the clamor surrounding the voucher expansion and changes to teacher evaluation, but they will affect what happens in classrooms fairly drastically.

Not only are the Common Core Standards increasing the rigor of public education in the state, but changes to very modes of evaluation have already been put in place.

Since 1999, public school students in Louisiana have had to take the promotional standard LEAP Test to move beyond the fourth and eighth grades. In high school, students had to pass the GEE to earn a diploma. Freshman who entered high school during the 2010-11 school year or after, however, began taking end-of-course tests and no longer had to take the GEE.

Beginning with the 2012-13 school year, juniors in high school will once again be taking a standardized assessment test, but this one may be a little more familiar and useful to those students who are college bound. The ACT college entrance examination will now be the test by which high school students in Louisiana are assessed.

Many educators see the move as a good thing.

“It’s making principals focus more on the ACT, which we needed to do anyway,” said East St. John High School Principal Patricia Triche.

Under the new guidelines, one quarter of School Performance Scores will be based on ACT scores. In the past, GEE scores also played a part in the SPS, but according to St. Charles Parish Superintendent Rodney Lafon, only the score for the first time a student took the test was taken into consideration. Students, however, were allowed to take the test as many times as they liked, so often the first effort was not a student’s most sincere.

In addition to possibly boosting School Performance Scores, the switch allows schools to focus more on preparing students for life beyond 12th grade. Aside from its many dual enrollment classes, East St. John is introducing four advanced placement classes, which can allow students to bypass certain requirements of the college curriculum.

Triche said she likes the parity the new assessment system will offer.

“Every kid at East St. John High School will have to take the ACT in the spring of their junior year,” she said. “It’s an equal playing field.”

While many educators in the state have reacted negatively to the changes being thrust upon them, Triche has chosen to see the positive side of the matter and embrace the changes.

“It’s a completely different mindset,” she said. “We’re going to teach the way they have the test. I should be able to look at what’s passed down to me and implement it.”

She has also welcomed the extra motivation.

“Our kids will rise up to what we expect of them. As we raise the bar, they meet it,” she said. “We want to be the best in the state.”