ACT Test is Common Core
By Linda MurphySince the 2015-2016 school year, Oklahoma public high school students have been taking ACT tests paid for by the state. After eliminating the end of year academic subject matter tests, the ACT was promoted as the best solution by State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister. Most people thought they would be getting the traditional ACT college entrance level academic exams, which we had known for 60 years, but even before ACT was selected, the developer had already announced they would be changing it to Common Core’s outcomes-based aligned testing.
In the selection of ACT, no regard was given to the fact that the state law repealing the original Common Core State Standards stated that Oklahoma’s new standards and new testing to be developed would not be Common Core aligned. We should remember that several members of the State School Board filed a lawsuit to stop the repeal of Common Core but lost the case in the State Supreme Court.
When Hofmeister proposed the ACT, there was an alternative to use the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, which was proposed and written into a bill by former State Representative David Brumbaugh. The usual “big government” education groups and State Chamber of Commerce all got behind Hofmeister and endorsed the use of ACT, just as they had endorsed Common Core and the path to testing Oklahoma’s students free from a nationalized-global test was closed.
ACT, as expected under the Common Core model, has added SEL – Social Emotional Learning items to their tests. This is the psychological evaluation of students’ attitudes, values and beliefs. Forbes magazine reported in 2018 that ACT was developing a morality/character standardized test for measuring a student’s “readiness” skills. It was developed and normed, not with what most American’s consider morality, but with the behavior traits considered important for workforce skills attitudes, and values around the world. The first customer was the United Arab Emirates.
The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) says that SEL “is the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
Education Week reported; “These days it’s not unusual to see social and emotional learning (SEL) at the heart of an education conference. What is unusual is an attentional focus on SEL as an equity issue and the thoughtful way that the ACT team incorporated it into the summit design and facilitation. The summit and the emerging ACT Agenda make clear that SEL for equity is a priority.” So the goal in the Common Core system remains to “equalize” the outcomes, performance and or responses of students, not only in the now more limited academic parts of the test, but also in the new Social and Emotional Learning area as well.
Oklahoma’s Governor has had full appointment power over the slx members of the Oklahoma State School Board, since 2011 when legislation was written over-riding the state Constitutional authority that divided the appointments among several state officials. The State Superintendent is elected and is limited to an 8-year term.
The power to change state testing in K-12 is in the hands of the Governor through the Oklahoma State School Board. Although the current governor has inherited this system, he is not obligated to keep it. If Oklahoma is really going to improve education, the focus must return to academics, and the testing that now drives the system must be changed.
Oklahomans should be the first in line to support curriculum and testing that is free from the psychological evaluation of students. We rejected Common Core in 2014 why should we let this testing stand now?
Forbes Magazine – The New Standardized Morality Test. Really. Peter Greene, Sep 13, 2018
Education Week – ACT, Leader in Measurement, Shifts Focus ...., June 18, 2018
Linda Murphy was the Republican nominee for State Superintendent of Public Instruction in 1994, and 1998. She ran again in 2018, losing the nomination in the runoff primary. She served under Governor Keating as Secretary of Education and later as Deputy Commissioner of Labor. She was a member of the State Job Training Coordinating Council, and served on the Governor’s School-to-Work Council, and the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Women. You may contact Linda at: lindalearn1