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ACT Aspire to Measure COVID-19 Impact

Ken McLemore

HOPE – The spring administration of the ACT Aspire test beginning in April will give the Hope Public Schools and Arkansas Department of Education insights into the impact of COVID-19 upon the learning process, the ADE said in a memo to educators.

The Feb. 8 memo from ADE Commissioner Johnny Key emphasizes the importance of having parents and students understand the necessity to resume use of the standardized test.

Key said the ADE recognizes the challenges COVID-19 has created.

“While summative testing is a federal and state requirement for accountability purposes, the focus for Arkansas spring testing is NOT on ‘accountability,’ but on the summative data to inform educational leaders, policymakers, and families about the impact of COVID-19 on the academic growth of students,” the memo states.

The ACT Aspire measures English, Math, Reading, Science and Writing skills of students in grades three through ten.

“Spring testing allows the state, districts, and schools the opportunity to ‘take a snapshot’ of learning to identify and track progress and inform interventions,” the ADE said.

Key’s memo also emphasizes the ADE is working through the legislative process to have the A-F accountability rating of Arkansas schools waived for the 2020-2021 academic year.

Frequently asked questions regarding the ACT Aspire are also addressed, including:

WHY IS TESTING REQUIRED THIS SPRING WHEN IT WAS CANCELLED LAST YEAR?

“At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were myriad challenges that schools had never before faced,” the ADE said. “All districts transitioned to remote learning, and Arkansas participated in a waiver provided by the U.S. Department of Education… Approximately 80 percent of Arkansas students are attending school in-person this year. School is open and appropriate guidelines and measures are being put into place to assess safety.”

WHY MUST THE TEST BE TAKEN ON CAMPUS ONLY?

“State summative testing requires testing protocols that school districts must follow,” the ADE said. “Provisions for on-site testing also ensure that student learning is consistently measured across the state.”

CAN MY STUDENT OPT-OUT DUE TO A HIGH-RISK HEALTH ISSUE?

“There is no parent opt-out form for spring summative tests,” the ADE said. “Parents who have significant concerns regarding the health and safety of their child due to a high-risk health concern are encouraged to reach out and discuss options with the school.”

CAN MY VIRTUAL LEARNING STUDENT BE TESTED AWAY FROM OTHER STUDENTS ON CAMPUS?

“The Division of Elementary and Secondary Education has provided flexibilities that allow remote students to test separately from onsite students, additional scheduling options, and extended testing windows,” the ADE said. “These flexibilities will provide districts the greatest ability possible to provide an agreeable testing arrangement for parents and families that meets individual student needs.”

HOW DO I KNOW ON-CAMPUS TESTING WILL BE SAFE FOR MY STUDENT?

“Schools are proactively working to implement safety measures based on the CDC and Department of Health guidelines and can provide for increased spacing and scheduling options as well as other available flexibilities,” the ADE said. “A parent who has concerns should contact school officials, building level or central office leaders, in his or her district.”

The ADE has provided an April 5 through May 7, 2021, testing window to allow school districts the ability to spread out testing schedules and reduce the number of students in testing venues on campus at any given time. As a result, the ADE has suggested possible use of Saturday testing dates, after-hours testing times, and testing of virtual instruction students at specific campus venues separate from other student.

Testing schedules for students in the Hope Public Schools will be announced through the office of HPS Federal Programs Coordinator Portia Jones. Questions regarding ACT Aspire testing requirements may be directed to Jones’ office at 870-722-2700, ext. 11.

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