Administrator Newsletter

Welcome to the Administrator Newsletter

November 2017

Each month we’ll share information about important upcoming deadlines and events, professional development opportunities, new research, product updates, and ACT assessment news.

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Condition of College and Career Readiness 2017: Underserved Learners Lag Far Behind Peers

Underserved students lag far behind their peers when it comes to college and career readiness, and the more underserved characteristics that students possess, the less likely they are to be ready. These findings are reported in The Condition of College & Career Readiness 2017 from ACT.

Underserved students, who represent nearly half (46 percent) of ACT-tested 2017 U.S. high school graduates, are defined as students who would be the first generation in their family to attend college, come from low-income families and/or self-identify their race/ethnicity as minority. Research suggests students with any of these three characteristics are less likely than others to have access to high-quality educational and career planning opportunities and resources.

Only 9 percent of ACT-tested graduates who possessed all three underserved characteristics showed strong readiness for college coursework, meeting three or four of the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks (English, mathematics, reading and science). Even among students who met only one of the underserved criteria, just 26 percent showed strong readiness. In comparison, the majority (54 percent) of graduates who were not underserved showed strong readiness for college.

Conversely, the majority of underserved students—including 81 percent of those with all three underserved characteristics—achieved only one or none of the four ACT benchmarks. Those students are likely to struggle in college-level coursework.

“While it’s no surprise that underserved students fall behind their peers due to the inequities that exist, it is extremely alarming and concerning to see how large this achievement gap really is,” said ACT Chief Executive Officer Marten Roorda. “This gap presents a major risk to our nation’s goals for postsecondary completion and economic competitiveness. We must work harder to ensure these students have access to quality coursework and information to assist them in planning for the future. We launched the ACT Center for Equity in Learning last year to help do just that.”

The results are based on the more than 2 million 2017 graduates—60 percent of the national graduating class—who took the ACT® test.

The report includes ACT score results from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, including 16 states that required all students to take the ACT as part of their statewide testing programs and another four states that funded ACT testing on an optional basis. It also includes the results from more than 1,100 individual school districts across the country that administered the ACT to all students. 

Visit the ACT Condition of College and Career Readiness Homepage to find more highlights, read the full national report, find state specific reports, and watch the video.  

Assessing the Whole Student

Shifts in education and the workplace have changed how we think about college and career readiness in the United States. In response to the new dynamic, ACT created the Holistic Framework™ to help people better understand education and work readiness, navigate life’s transition points, and achieve success. The framework defines a new standard for preparing and measuring student college and career readiness. 

ACT recently released videos aimed to help you learn more about the four, key domains that emphasize a broad range of skills and encourage a more expansive vision of the outcomes that help to define student success.

Core Academic Skills
Skills that are mapped to learning progressions from K-career.

Cross-Cutting Capabilities
Critical thinking, collaborative problem solving, and information and technology skills.

Behavioral Skills 
Skills related to success in education and the workforce.

Education and Career Navigation Skills 
Skills related to exploration, planning, and decision making.

English Learner Support Now Available

English learner (EL) supports are now available on the ACT® test to U.S. students. The goal of the supports is to help ensure that the ACT scores earned by English learners accurately reflect what they have learned in school. EL supports are limited to students in a local school district’s EL program who meet the current definitions of an English learner under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). Students must apply for the English learner supports through their high school counselors’ office.

Qualifying students who receive the supports will earn college-reportable ACT scores.

The supports for qualified English learners will include the following:

  • Additional time on the test (not to exceed time-and-a-half)
  • Use of an approved word-to-word bilingual glossary (containing no word definitions)
  • Test instructions provided in the student’s native language (including Spanish and a limited number of other languages initially)
  • Testing in a non-distracting environment (i.e., in a separate room) 

“We believe these solutions will help ensure that English learners have an equal opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned in school, leveling the playing field while not giving the students any special advantages,” said ACT Chief Commercial Officer Suzana Delanghe. “This change is about improving access and equity for students whose proficiency in English might prevent them from truly demonstrating the skills and knowledge they have learned. The supports are in keeping with the mission of ACT: Helping people achieve education and workplace success.”

To help determine what supports could be offered to English learners without violating testing constructs or providing an unfair advantage, ACT assembled a panel of external experts representing state education agencies, colleges, EL and bilingual policy administrators from state departments of education, civil rights advocates, testing and measurement experts, and researchers. This approach reflects input from the nation’s largest public university systems.

“Today’s universities are serving the most diverse populations in the history of U.S. higher education,” said California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White. “It is imperative that we give all students opportunities to demonstrate their true potential, in order to give all students access to the benefits of a university education.”

ACT is committed to improving access and opportunity for underserved learners. Of critical importance to ACT is ensuring that the scores earned by English learners using these supports are valid and reliable for postsecondary use. ACT has preliminary data suggesting that academic achievement of English learners may be underreported under standard ACT test conditions. ACT has developed a full research agenda in support of the validity of scores earned by students using the supports based on actual test results. 

Professional Development Opportunities

College and Career Readiness Webinars

Miss your local ACT College and Career Readiness Workshop? Register to watch an ACT College and Career Readiness Webinar online and learn how to boost student success.

Best Practices

Helena Public Schools—Assess, Analyze, Achieve

Helena Public School District in Montana faced two challenges: measuring student readiness and developing student growth. In 2014, the state of Montana implemented a grant that allowed the Helena Public School District to administer the ACT to all high school juniors. Helena quickly discovered that achievement on the test was closely correlated to course rigor so the district aligned their curriculum to the ACT-recommended course patterns.

By offering a broad and robust curriculum, Helena Public School District has experienced the following growth in the percentage of students meeting the ACT College Readiness Benchmarks. 

Read the Helena story and discover how you can get your school to use a common language for student readiness and curriculum planning that will lead to district and student success. 

Upcoming Dates

National Summit on Education Reform

November 29–December 1, 2017
Omni Nashville Hotel
Nashville, Tennessee

Research Spotlight

English Language Learner Research Report

A random sample of students who took the ACT® test in April 2016 was invited to participate in an online survey evaluating different English Language Learner (ELL) indicators (n= 52,000). As part of this initiative, students, regardless of whether they were ELL, were also asked how many languages they speak in the home. A total of 10,336 students responded. 

This survey revealed several key data insights.  

Gaining a Better Understanding of ELL Students: The Number of Languages Spoken in the Home

Gaining a Better Understanding of ELL Students: How Well Do Parents Speak English?

Understanding How to Measure ELL: Evaluating Different Indicators of ELL

Key finding:

At least one out of three survey respondents speak more than one language in the home, even if English is the primary language.

Key finding:

Approximately 43% of students who indicataed that they spoke a language other than English in the home reported that their parents speak English less than very well.

Key finding:

The language most commonly spoken in the home may be different than the language easiest to use when speaking.

Product Spotlight

OpenEd Collaborating with Blackboard

Blackboard Inc., a leading education technology company for teaching, learning and student engagement, and OpenEd, an ACT product and the leading online resource library for K-12 teachers, announced a new collaboration which integrates OpenEd’s standards-aligned open educational resource (OER) library with Blackboard’s learning management systems and solutions.

“ACT and Blackboard share the belief that educational resources should be seamlessly integrated into learning platforms to make teachers’ lives easier,” said Adam Blum, chief architect of OpenEd. “We are excited about OpenEd’s resources being available in one of the most widely used LMS platforms today.”

OpenEd provides teachers with standards-aligned educational resources from more than 25,000 sources. Materials include videos, games, assessments, homework assignments, and lesson plans, which are all accurately aligned to standards and sorted by their proven efficacy. 

“OpenEd is a game-changing intervention tool for educators and learners. Our classroom teachers can target specific strands, and personalize learning with tailor-made interactive games and quizzes.  Most importantly, our students are highly engaged in these activities and look forward to using them, so everyone wins!” a school counselor in Arkansas said. 

Teachers can easily integrate OpenEd’s materials into the learning experience through Blackboard Open Content, a cross-platform, cloud-based, global learning object repository. With this new partnership, teachers are empowered to help students master competencies with seamless access to over half a million OER resources for Common Core Math, Language Arts, Social Studies and the Next Generation Science Standards. Blackboard Open Content is available in Blackboard Learn (the company’s flagship LMS), Moodlerooms (Blackboard’s open-source learning platform) and Blackboard Classroom (a new learning management solution).

“We’re pleased to partner with OpenEd to provide educators nationwide with thousands of high quality resources at no cost,” said Katie Blot, Chief Strategy Officer at Blackboard. “Blackboard is committed to enriching instruction and making teacher’s lives easier through the seamless integration of high quality digital content into our learning management systems.”