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We are committed to providing you with the most up-to-date resources and announcements from the college admissions testing landscape. Here are some of the top headlines from this past month:
Computer-Adaptive ACT Postponed until 2018
Summary: You may remember last summer the ACT officially announced that it would be moving all international test takers to a computer-adaptive version (CAT) of the test this fall (see the old press release here). We received confirmation from an ACT rep that the ACT has had to postpone the release of the CAT version until September of next year (2018). And even that release date is tentative. So students, counselors, families, and even test prep pros can breathe easy for the time being!
What this means:
- We’ve predicted for some time that this delay was going to happen. The ACT has been completely silent about the transition since the original 2016 press release, which didn’t bode well for the transition.
- Developing a CAT version of the ACT is a tough project that involves the development of new tech tools, verification of infrastructure at all test sites, and creation of massive banks of questions. It’s not a huge surprise there’s been a delay.
- The only problematic aspect of this entire process has been the complete silence by the ACT. They have not announced publicly the postponement, though the original press release is still featured on their site. With students already registering for this fall’s tests—which were supposed to be the first CAT administrations—the ACT owes it to the students to clearly state what’s actually changing and when.
Study Finds Free Mandatory SAT/ACT Helps Low-Income Students
Summary: A recent study by the University of Michigan published in Education, Finance, and Policy argues that when states offer a free SAT or ACT on a school day, low-income students disproportionally benefit when compared to their wealthier peers. “Michigan began requiring public school juniors to take the ACT in 2007, and the share of high school graduates taking a college entrance exam rose immediately to nearly 99 percent from 54 percent. That growth was even sharper among low-income students; only 35 percent had been taking the test.” And the number of students scoring high enough to enter college rose: “For every 1,000 students who took a college exam when it was optional, and scored high enough to attend a selective college, another 230 high scorers appeared once the test was mandatory. For low-income students, the effect was larger: For every 1,000 students who scored well on the optional test, an additional 480 did so on the mandatory test.” These trends increase college attendance and help overburdened counselors, teachers, and mentors better identify disadvantaged students who are college candidates. Given that universal testing is relatively cheap ($50/student), in the words of Chalkbeat, “the policy is straightforward, easy to scale, and offers a good bang for the buck.”
What This Means: We’ve been tracking the states who have moved to the SAT or ACT for their federally mandated compliance test. This latest data reaffirms that those states that have taken up the SAT/ACT over PARCC or Smarter Balanced are on to something that actually benefits their students in very tangible ways.
ACT Names New Head of Adaptive Learning
Summary: Next week David Kuntz will join the ACT as CEO of Adaptive Learning. Kuntz previously was Chief Research Officer at Knewton, a private company that specializes in online, adaptive learning platforms for a variety of academic subjects. Knewton was at one point partnered with many of the biggest names in education publishing, including Pearson and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. According to an ACT press release, Kuntz “will work on the design of a large-scale, cloud-based adaptive learning platform and on strategy and design for ACT’s adaptive learning initiatives.”
What this means: This move is an important indicator of changes afoot at ACT. First, it shows continued commitment by the ACT to compete with the SAT/Khan Academy adaptive-learning platform. Second, we know that the ACT had planned to release a computer-adaptive testing environment for all official tests internationally this fall, but the plan was delayed for undisclosed reasons. Kuntz might be the solution ACT is looking for. According to the press release, he holds five patents for technology “to support and improve data-driven test assembly, performance scoring, and reporting,” items that could be key components to an adaptive test. At the very least, someone with such deep knowledge of computer-based test platforms and their creation would be an important hire to right the ship at ACT.