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My Exchange with ACT’s Senior Director of Media and Public Relations

February 19, 2016

On February 17, 2016, I wrote a post about ACT’s College and Career Readiness Standards, and I ended with a couple of questions that I had for ACT’s Senior Director of Media and Public Relations, Ed Colby, one of which was as follows:

Edward, how about a couple of examples of CC math and ELA standards that ACT/Aspire excludes for not being supported by ACT research. Could you please provide?

On February 19, 2016, Colby responded.

ed colby  Ed Colby

In this post, I offer the details of my email exchanges with Colby, culminating in his answering my question about specific examples of Common Core standards that ACT does not test.

Here goes:

From: Mercedes Schneider [mailto:deutsch29@aol.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 16, 2016 12:49 PM
To: Public Relations Department
Subject: question about press release

Dear ACT Public Relations Rep:

On February 11, 2016, ACT issued a press release, which includes the paragraph cited below:

http://www.act.org/newsroom/act-responds-to-findings-of-fordham-institute-study-on-next-generation-assessments/

The finding that ACT Aspire assessments adequately assess many but not all of the priority content reflected in the Common Core standards is not surprising. Unlike other assessments included in the study, ACT Aspire is not and was never intended to measure all of the CCSS. Rather, ACT Aspire is designed to measure the skills and knowledge most important in preparing students for college and career readiness. This is a significant philosophical and design difference between ACT Aspire and other next generation assessments. ACT has made the choices we have to align with college and career readiness standards, rather than specifically to the Common Core, and we intend to keep it that way.

I would like to know specifically what ACT considers t be “the skills and knowledge most important in preparing students for college and career readiness” as noted above, and how these differ from Common Core.

Thank you.

–Mercedes Schneider
Louisiana teacher and author

Colby responds:

—–Original Message—–
From: Edward R. Colby <ed.colby@act.org>
To: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>
Sent: Tue, Feb 16, 2016 1:25 pm
Subject: RE: question about press release

Hello, Mercedes.

Every three to four years, ACT conducts its National Curriculum Survey among thousands of elementary and secondary school teachers and instructors of first-year college courses across the country. We ask elementary and secondary teachers about the skills they are teaching in their courses, and we ask college instructors about the skills that most important for incoming students to possess to be ready to succeed in the first-year, credit-bearing courses they teach. We use the results of this survey to inform the ACT College and Career Readiness Standards, upon which the content of the ACT and ACT Aspire assessments are based. The results help insure that ACT’s assessments are focused on the skills and knowledge most important to college and career readiness.

ACT supports the Common Core State Standards and actually helped develop them. They were informed by our research. And, all of the skills that we measure in ACT Aspire and the ACT are aligned to the CCSS. But we don’t measure all of the CCSS; we focus only on those skills that our research has validated are essential to college readiness.

You can find more information about the ACT National Curriculum survey here:  http://www.act.org/research-policy/national-curriculum-survey/

You can find more information about the ACT College and Career Readiness Standards here:  http://www.act.org/standard/

I hope this information is helpful. If you have any additional questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Best regards,

Ed Colby
Senior Director, Media and Public Relations
500 ACT Drive, PO Box 168
Iowa City, Iowa  52243-0168
319.337.1147
ed.colby@act.org

My response:

—–Original Message—–
From: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>
To: ed.colby <ed.colby@act.org>
Sent: Wed, Feb 17, 2016 8:11 am
Subject: RE: question about press release

Edward, thank you for your response.

I have some more questions.

First of all, what percentage of Common Core does ACT measure?

Thanks–

–Mercedes

No response from Ed. So, I emailed again the next day:

From: Mercedes Schneider [mailto:deutsch29@aol.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 12:47 PM
To: Edward R. Colby
Subject: RE: question about press release

Hello, Edward.

Should I submit my next question?

Thanks–

–Mercedes

And Ed responds:

On Feb 17, 2016, at 2:06 PM, “Edward R. Colby” <ed.colby@act.org> wrote:

Mercedes,

We really don’t have a specific answer to your question below, as it is more complicated than that. We offer tests in five subject areas (English, math, reading, science, and writing) on both ACT Aspire and the ACT test across 10 grade levels, and we focus on the skills most important to college and career readiness in each subject for each grade level. So, the coverage of any standards would vary by grade level and subject area. Plus, standards have varying degrees of breadth and depth. So the answer is not cut and dry in terms of what percent of the Common Core standards we do and don’t cover.

I would welcome any additional questions you might have and will try to answer them as best I can.

Ed Colby
Senior Director, Media and Public Relations
500 ACT Drive, PO Box 168
Iowa City, Iowa  52243-0168
319.337.1147
ed.colby@act.org

My turn again:

From:deutsch29@aol.com [mailto:deutsch29@aol.com]
Sent: Wednesday, February 17, 2016 5:21 PM
To: Edward R. Colby
Subject: Re: question about press release

Edward, how about a couple of examples of CC math and ELA standards that ACT/Aspire excludes for not being supported by ACT research. Could you please provide?

Thanks.

–Mercedes

Sent from my iPhone

From Ed:

—–Original Message—–
From: Edward R. Colby <ed.colby@act.org>
To: deutsch29 <deutsch29@aol.com>
Sent: Thu, Feb 18, 2016 9:04 am
Subject: RE: question about press release

Hi, Mercedes. In checking with our experts on this, they have recommended that I send you a link to a paper we produced on the topic of alignment. You’ll find it here: http://www.act.org/standard/pdf/Alignment-White-Paper.pdf. I’m hoping this will help answer your questions. After you’ve read it, if you have any more questions, please just let me know.

Ed Colby
Senior Director, Media and Public Relations
500 ACT Drive, PO Box 168
Iowa City, Iowa  52243-0168
319.337.1147
ed.colby@act.org

Not good enough:

From: Mercedes Schneider [mailto:deutsch29@aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, February 18, 2016 9:15 AM
To: Edward R. Colby
Subject: RE: question about press release

Ed, I saw this paper. It is only four pages and includes nothing in detail.

I am looking for specifics.

If ACT is going to publicly state that it is not in line with all CC, ACT should be able to readily produce specifics to support its assertion.

Thank you.

–Mercedes

Ed is still hanging in:

—–Original Message—–
From: Edward R. Colby <ed.colby@act.org>
To: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>
Sent: Thu, Feb 18, 2016 3:08 pm
Subject: RE: question about press release

I’m working to see if I can get you something more specific, Mercedes. I’ll get back to you as soon as I am able.

Ed Colby
Senior Director, Media and Public Relations
500 ACT Drive, PO Box 168
Iowa City, Iowa  52243-0168
319.337.1147
ed.colby@act.org

Happy to hear it:

From: Mercedes Schneider [mailto:deutsch29@aol.com]
Sent: Thursday, February 18, 2016 3:17 PM
To: Edward R. Colby
Subject: RE: question about press release

Thank you, Ed.

–M

And more from Ed:

—–Original Message—–
From: Edward R. Colby <ed.colby@act.org>
To: Mercedes Schneider <deutsch29@aol.com>
Sent: Fri, Feb 19, 2016 11:13 am
Subject: RE: question about press release

I haven’t forgotten about you, Mercedes, and I apologize for the delay. I’m waiting for help from our test development experts, and they have been tied up in some big meetings the past few days. I hope to have something for you this afternoon.

Ed Colby
Senior Director, Media and Public Relations
500 ACT Drive, PO Box 168
Iowa City, Iowa  52243-0168
319.337.1147
ed.colby@act.org

Impressed that Ed is following through:

From: Mercedes Schneider [mailto:deutsch29@aol.com]
Sent: Friday, February 19, 2016 11:27 AM
To: Edward R. Colby
Subject: RE: question about press release

Thanks again, Ed.

I appreciate your efforts.

–M

And Ed delivers:

Mercedes,

You had asked for some specific Common Core math and ELA standards that ACT/Aspire excludes for not being supported by ACT research. Below are some specific examples:

ELA

ACT has relied on research and content specialist judgment about how to assess key ELA standards at each grade in a manner that is grade-level appropriate.

One example of a grade-level ELA standard that is not fully assessed is Standard 4 of the Reading Literature strand:

  • “Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in a text, including those that allude to significant characters found in mythology (e.g., Herculean).”

Although ACT research supports the skills and knowledge in some of this standard, ACT does not require prior knowledge of mythology.  ACT research supports a range of literary and informational texts at this grade; requiring mythology would go beyond ACT’s research base.

Some of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) cannot be adequately assessed in a large-scale single-occasion format given current constraints. Examples:

  • Research standards that focus on extended research projects that require prolonged periods of time  (Writing standard 7)
  • Standards that require collaboration or technology use:

o   “Use technology, including the Internet, to produce, publish, and update individual or shared writing products in response to ongoing feedback, including new arguments or information.” (Writing standard 6, Grades 11-12)

MATH

In math, ACT tests do not align with CCSS placement of certain topics based on our research around learning progressions and subject matter judgment.  For example, the CCSSM for high school includes specific standards associated with the complex number system. We do not have sufficient evidence that teaching complex numbers early in high school is appropriate. Therefore, our test specifications do not feature complex numbers on our early high school math assessments.

Also, certain CCSS standards require using specific tools or technology; we do not impose those restrictions (e.g., on the test having to use technology to calculate determinants for matrices or correlation coefficients, or to use dynamic geometry software).

I hope this helps, Mercedes. Please let me know if you have any additional questions.

Have a great weekend.

Ed Colby
Senior Director, Media and Public Relations
500 ACT Drive, PO Box 168
Iowa City, Iowa  52243-0168
319.337.1147
ed.colby@act.org

There you have it: Some specific CC standards that ACT does not assess.

I have not yet pushed for a comprehensive listing (I have kept Ed busy, and he has followed through so well), but do feel free to email Ed Colby with any questions related to ACT or ACT’s connection to Common Core.

Tell him Mercedes sent you.

apple core 2

______________________________________________________________

Schneider is a southern Louisiana native, career teacher, trained researcher, and author of the ed reform whistle blower, A Chronicle of Echoes: Who’s Who In the Implosion of American Public Education.

She also has a second book, Common Core Dilemma: Who Owns Our Schools?.

both books

Don’t care to buy from Amazon? Purchase my books from Powell’s City of Books instead.

8 Comments
  1. I am reminded of a story from my grandmother, a Londoner.
    Two boys, Freddie and Bert.
    “Give us a bite of yer apple, Bert”
    “No”
    “Well give us the core then”
    “There ain’t goin’ ter be no core”

    *****

  2. As an Alabama teacher (one of the states that uses ACT Aspire), THANK YOU!

  3. Well, as a retired ELA teacher at the RI School for the Deaf who taught introductory Latin and Roman civilization, I found that mythology was an engaging avenue to enhance literacy development, even for students with weak ELA skills. So I’m miffed that ACT research doesn’t deem mythology worthy of inclusion. As for the other ELA standards, no on-demand standardized test could possibly assess them, so what is their point?

  4. Jill Reifschneider permalink

    Thank you Mercedes. I recognize “Herculean” from the fourth grade ELA standard which Ed states the ACT does not specifically assess. It is tough to find Greek mythology that is fourth-grade appropriate. I found a Mary Pope Osborne series that tells the story of Odysseus for that age-group, but it was hard to get a hold of since it was out of print.I did it though.

    I find the comment about the high school math standards being developmentally inappropriate fascinating. I could say that about A LOT of the math standards! I teach elementary grades, and we forget that standards for a “grade” may be targeting children born in September of one year and August of the following year which can be one of many important considerations in the “readiness” to learn for children. Thank you again for your persistence and sharing the results of your inquiry.

  5. Katy permalink

    Mercedes, thank you for your ongoing fight to obtain information for all of us!

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  1. The Critical Reader » Why is rSAT aligned with high school rather than college?

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