'ACT Aspire' Test Questioned by AR Lawmaker

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. -- During a Tuesday hearing in front of the house Education Committee, St. Sen. Jake Files (R-Ft. Smith), spelled out what he says is a major concern with the state's new ACT Aspire test.

"When you look at things statistically, the writing portion doesn't add up to the rest of it," Files said.

He says results from the writing portion buck trends of success seen in English and reading and suggest the grading system may be flawed.

Arkansas students took the ACT Aspire test for the first time last school year. It was the third different assessment the state used in three years.
Next year, results will start being used by the Arkansas Department of Education to judge student progress. State and federal accountability laws require the state to measure student progress to ensure students are learning and progressing on grade level. Citing the anomalies, Files says that should be delayed on the writing portion for another year.

"It would impugn the integrity of ACT as a company and ACT Aspire as a product to suggest that it is in some way, shape or form invalid," said Christopher Kratzer, ACT's Director for Government Affairs.

Files got heavy pushback during the hearing from ACT officials and from education commissioner Johnny Key.

"The passage of this bill does have real potential consequences," Key said.

The state is paying ACT Aspire $40 million to administer the test. Key says delaying implementation would create uncertainty for a system searching for stability.

After hearing testimony lawmakers voted down Files' proposal to delay implementation.

State education officials say the relatively low writing scores among Arkansas students show more work needs to be done. They assured lawmakers that schools are being provided resources to make improvements.

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