Alabama to give spring standardized tests in person

By Trisha Powell Crain |

Accessibility Supports and Accommodations Policy State Assessments

Even as the coronavirus pandemic rages on, Alabama schools will roll out a brand-new standardized test for students in second through eighth grades in early March.

Students must take the test at school, said Alabama state Superintendent Eric Mackey. There is no at-home option.

With about 30% of Alabama’s 716,000 students currently doing virtual school, however, it’s unclear whether, or how many, students will actually show up in classrooms to take the test.

“We don’t know what participation will be like,” Mackey said.

The test, called the Alabama Comprehensive Assessment Program summative test, was supposed to have been given for the first time in spring 2020, but was postponed after schools closed in mid-March and the U.S. Department of Education said tests wouldn’t be required under federal education law.

Mackey said he wants students to take the new test in order to assess current learning and the impact of the pandemic. The test will have no impact on individual students’ grades, but is meant to help schools and states assess current curriculum requirements and teaching goals.

“It’s important to give the test,” Mackey said, “so we can know where kids are.”

New leadership at the U.S. Department of Education also hasn’t yet signaled whether officials will waive any parts of the federal accountability requirements, he said, though Alabama may request that waiver if the opportunity arises.

Test results on the statewide assessment are used to calculate grades on the Alabama Education Report Card, also known as the A-F Report Card, as required by state law. Letter grades were waived for the 2019-20 school year because federal officials waived the testing requirements.

Statewide, Alabama students’ most recent test results, from the 2018-19 school year, showed 47% of students were proficient in math, 46% were proficient in reading, and 37% were proficient in science.

Alabama Rep. Terri Collins, R-Decatur, championed the state’s Education Report Card law and said she agrees the ACAP should be given this year to let school leaders know how their students are doing, where students are succeeding and where they need help.

“State budgets, federal funds and other resources need to be pointed toward evidence based data on where the gaps are and how to best address them,” Collins said.

Vic Wilson leads the Council for Leaders in Alabama Schools, which represents principals and other administrators. Wilson said he’s worried about factors in play for testing this year, with some kids doing remote learning and others doing in-person instruction.

Still, Wilson said he does believe tests need to be given. He doesn’t believe the results should be used to calculate grades for schools on the Education Report Card.

“Schools can use the data internally,” he said, “to see where they need to go for next year, how the kids are doing, how the teachers are doing.”

Alabama Deputy Superintendent Daniel Boyd told Monday afternoon he anticipates results will be used to calculate letter grades for schools and districts for the 2020-21 school year. Schools with achievement results from spring testing that are in the bottom 6% statewide will be declared failing under provisions of the Alabama Accountability Act, Boyd said.

In Jefferson County, Deputy Supt. Orletta Rush said her schools currently are planning to give the state standardized test to all students.

“The million-dollar question was if we were going to require students to come in if they were remote and take the test,” Rush said. Officials are meeting next week to make that decision, she said.

In Tuscaloosa City Schools, Public Relations Director Lesley Bruinton told her system has told parents of students learning remotely that the state tests must be taken at school.

The ACAP will be given to second through eighth graders in English and math. Science will be tested in grades 4, 6, and 8. The second-grade test results will not be publicly reported and will be used only to report growth for third graders.

Students will take the ACAP between March 15 and April 30.

Other statewide tests, including the PreACT for 10th graders, the ACT for 11th graders and the ACT WorkKeys for 12th graders are also being given to students.

Alabama K-12 spring testing dates
Alabama’s K-12 spring testing dates, published by the Alabama State Department of Education in Dec. 2020.