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January 2017

Board helps students get their ACT together

ASU Department of English English language students

The American College Testing (ACT) exam board has announced it will provide support to English language learners (ELLs) taking its college admission test, also named ACT, starting from the 2017–18 school year.The ACT was taken by 64 per cent of high school graduates in 2016, about two million students, according to figures on the exam board’s website.

Adjustments to the exam will be offered to all those students that fall into the definition of ELL as set out by the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

Criteria include being aged under 21, coming from an environment where English is not the dominant language and having difficulties in understanding the English language that may result in, among other things, the inability to meet academic standards.

In order to devise strategies that could effectively support ELLs without ‘violating test constructs or providing an unfair advantage’, the ACT gathered a team of experts which included bilingual policy administrators, researchers and civil rights advocates.

Among the new adjustments, ELLs will be allowed additional time for the test and given the use of a word-to-word bilingual dictionary without word definitions. Test instructions will be given in students’ native languages, and test-takers will have the opportunity to opt for a non-distracting environment such as a separate room.

According to preliminary data, the ACT found that the academic achievements of ELLs may go unreported under normal test conditions, and this could have an impact on their access to higher education and future employment. ‘This change is about improving access and equity for students whose proficiency in English might prevent them from truly demonstrating the skills and knowledge they have learned,’ said the ACT chief commercial officer Suzana Delanghe.

Earlier this year, another college admission test, the SAT, came under scrutiny after a new version was released in March, Reuters news agency reports. Test questions were described as ‘wordy’, especially in the maths section, and one professor from the University of California Davis said that ‘the problem is going to mostly affect English-language learners.’

The Gazette contacted College Board, which administers the SAT, but did not hear back by the time we went to press.

Pic courtesy: ASU

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