Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Life after ACT Explore & Plan

Photo Credit:
I think so many of us had that moment of wanting to break down and cry when we heard that the ACT Explore and Plan would be gone forever. I personally denied it for as long as I could and then processed the truth very quickly, jumped straight into accepting the reality of our new world and started to brainstorm about what to do next.

Like most of my readers, I realized very quickly that we would not be able to (1) quickly adopt the ACT ASPIRE to help place incoming freshman unless we hit the lottery due to its sticker price: $22 (CBT)/$28 (paper/pencil) and (2) use the ACT Aspire for our career development program because it does not include a career component.

I feel like crying again just typing that.

Finally, today at our local ACT College & Career Readiness Workshop I found a solution to our woes...


Many of us were using the ACT Explore for freshman placement purposes. Without the Explore around, a new, reliable solution had to be found. Today I found out that ACT actually offers 3 different types of ASPIRE, the one I wrote about above, which is the summative assessment and two additional formats: (1) ASPIRE Interim Assessments and (2) ASPIRE Classroom Assessments. Check out the snapshot (below) from my product catalog.

The solution for our placement concerns is the ACT Interim Assessments. A couple of things to note:

1. There are 3 batteries (English, Math, Science)
2. Release dates are: Sept 1, Dec. 1 and March 1
3. You can choose to give 1, 2 or all 3 intervals
4. Each battery is 45 minutes & computer based
5. You get % correct, not a scale score
6. Available for grades 3-10
7. Cost: $7/student

My idea for placement...

Order ASPIRE Interim Assessments for all grade 9-10 students. Assess the students 1st semester, prior to final exams. Compare ASPIRE scores to final course grades 1st semester to set new placement criteria for English and Math courses. Use this baseline data for future placement. Assess grade 8 students in the Spring and place them according to the new criteria established by local norms.

The Cost

A colleague of mine had a genius idea of charging students a fee at registration next year to pay for the ASPIRE to help the students prepare for the ACT and provide the school with better placement data. She suggested charging $25-$30/student (maybe a little higher if you have a high percentage of free/reduced lunch students). Maybe term the fee "College & Career Readiness Testing Fee" or something similar. You can get a discounted rate I believe if you combine the summative and interim assessments. 

I can also think of ideas for use of the ASPIRE Classroom Assessment, but I won't go into great detail in this post. In general, if you have been using Discovery testing or something similar for progress monitoring, you may want to check out the classroom assessment product.

  • Learn more about the migration and find other useful links here.
  • Check out practice ASPIRE tests here. (to log in use the test you are practicing: English, Math or Science; and always use "ACTASPIRE" as the password). NOTE: select "review answers" to review the answers.
  • The answers for the practice tests and much more are located here in the Exemplars
Career Development Solution

Now this is an exciting one! ACT is now recommending that we use ACT Profile, a new, FREE, career planning program. ACT Profile is built to be more like a social media account. Students can use it to take assessments (interest, abilities and values inventory), identify obstacles to college/career planning and so much more. The Career Map is interactive in the program and aligns the results of their assessments to identify further career exploration opportunities. Counselors can set up a profile and students can connect with their counselor for tracking purposes.

ACT Profile may end up replacing my current career development resource. I plan to learn more about this tool this semester and introduce it to a select group of freshman. Stay tuned for more details.

The Future

I foresee a major change in my program throughout the course of this year. I was apprehensive at first, just because there didn't seem to be a viable solution, but now I feel like we have options. I especially am happy to see the ACT Profile option, and the fact that it is free is even better.

Please share your plans on migrating to the new ACT products in the comments section below. I would love to hear what you all have planned. Together we can make this transition smoother.

Want to learn more about my program? Check out these links:

Related posts about my program that are now subject to change.
Mentions of my current career development program: Whats Next Illinois

Monday, September 22, 2014

ASVAB: A Career Exploration Tool + A Cool Prep Tool

The ASVAB is the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. It was introduced in 1968 and can be taken by more than just armed forces applicants.

Each year I offer the ASVAB to my students and advertise it as a career exploration program because that's really what it is. Students who take the assessment can choose to not release their scores to the armed services. MEPS will send non-uniformed personnel to administer the test for you, but we usually have uniformed military personnel come to assist with proctoring. We've administered the assessment on September 11 for the last couple of years to ensure military presence on a day that is so important for us to remember as a country. This year one of our recruiters said the pledge of allegiance for us--that was awesome.

The ASVAB allows students to assess their academic strengths and pair them with their interests through the career component that they access after the exam.

The ASVAB actually has three components:

1. The ASVAB Test (roughly 3 hours)
2. The FYI an interest inventory
3. Explore Careers

The ASVAB website is a great resource to learn more about the potential of the exam for your students. Check out this awesome resource based on Holland's Theory (I love Holland's Theory) and these Awareness Activities. Here are some crafty ways to advertise the assessment to your students.

A new prep tool for students that I just learned about thanks to Twitter (thanks @misterabrams) called "ASVAB Exam Prep 2014" (by PocketPrep) is pretty impressive. 

Here are some screenshots:

This prep tool is so easy to use and best of all students can download it (FREE for a limited time) on their phone and practice anywhere.

"ASVAB Exam Prep 2014 makes it easy to study in small chunks. The practice exam includes 425 unique questions with detailed answer explanations, so you’ll actually learn something instead of simply memorizing. The exam covers everything from general science to mechanical comprehension. It also includes a test-taking strategy guide, ensuring you’re prepared for the real thing when the time comes.
ASVAB Exam Prep 2014 is available for free for a limited time. It has a 4.5-star rating with a total of 18 ratings." Apps Gone Free
Although my students have already tested this year I plan to add info about the tool to my SMORE flyer for next year. I will also share it with my students during their results interpretation session (which your local recruiters can help you with).

How do you advertise and help students prepare for the ASVAB? Share your comments below.

Want to schedule the ASVAB for your students? Click here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Growth Mindset, Grit & Goal Setting Lesson Plan

Each student wrote down one thing they learned from the lesson that they can use to foster a growth mindset.

This year I did my first lesson a little different than in the past. I decided to lead with the concepts of growth mindset, grit & goal setting--these go along with my theme for the year, "Get your Mind Right," and align with my program goals.

I wrote a little about this idea earlier in the summer here.

I aligned the lesson plan with the new ASCA Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success and Common Core. I taught the lesson to every student through their English classes. I also put a link to the Prezi on my program website so students who were absent would be able to watch it, the voice overs help to keep my auditory learners engaged. Thankfully I only had about 8 students absent throughout the 2 weeks I delivered the lesson.

I had each student take "Short Grit Scale" which I will grade and give back to them all next week in their Advisory Homerooms. They will take the assessment again at the end of the semester, after they set their own SMART goals, then again at the end of the year. We are working towards improving their over all grit score by individual and by grade; we expect every student to have a grit scale score of 3 or above.

Students who struggle with writing SMART goals, or have a low beginning grit scale score will be placed into my Vision Board small group during RTI time.  Read more about this idea here.

Here is a link to the Prezi, my lesson plan, and the materials for the lesson.

Best wishes as you kick off your school year!