Education

Smarter Balanced Consortium vs. ACT

As the state prepares to fully implement controversial Common Core standards, South Carolina also is about to put in place a new test to measure students' progress toward those goals.

The state currently has adopted a test program authored by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium to go in to effect next school year. However, some educators have asked the state to consider a program by ACT, called ACT Aspire, because they feel it would better serve students.

"There's a lot of big and very important decisions that have to be made concerning those two tests and who is going to do the assessments, Smarter Balanced or ACT," said David Whittemore, chairman of the state Education Oversight Committee, which plays a role in reviewing, recommending and adopting standardized tests for the South Carolina.

Both of these tests will go beyond the traditional and long-used multiple choice questions. They also will employ short-answer questions and various multi-part exercises to measure students' analytical skills.

The tests are similar, but each has distinguishing characteristics, too. Here are the ins and outs:

Smarter Balanced Consortium

  • This Consortium is a collaboration of 22 states and is led by educators, researchers and policy makers. It is not produced by proponents of Common Core itself.
  • The Consortium's projects are funded through a four-year, $175 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education. A similar grant was given to another group of 17 states, the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC. The grants were awarded to these two groups to develop valid and reliable assessment systems for their separate member states.
  • The Consortium is developing a system of assessments for English language arts and math for grades 3 through 8 and 11. These assessments will be administered online, allowing for timely results that will provide information to teachers.
  • Students will spend nearly 52 hours taking this test from third grade through high school.
  • In addition to these summative assessments, the consortium has created a set of optional formative assessments and tools that districts and schools could use throughout the year.
  • Learn more: http://www.smarterbalanced.org

ACT Aspire

  • The ACT group is a nonprofit organization best known for their college-entrance exam, but they produce a variety of other assessments.
  • In 2012, ACT and Pearson -- the world's leading education company that develops curricula, learning tools and testing programs -- partnered to create a company to write a test aligned with Common Core standards. As a result, ACT Aspire LLC was founded.
  • The ACT Aspire is developing an assessment system for English language arts, reading and math as well as science for grades 3 through 8 and early high school. These tests, which will be administered online, will also be linked to the ACT College Readiness Standards and will highlight a student's progress toward those benchmarks and show anticipated performance on the entrance exam.
  • Students will spend nearly 28 hours taking this test from third grade through high school.
  • In addition to these summative assessments, ACT Aspire has created a set of optional formative and classroom level assessments that teachers could use throughout the year.
  • Learn more: http://www.discoveractaspire.org
  • Follow reporter Sarah Bowman on Twitter at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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