SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today announced the launch of a new voluntary testing program aimed at improving student achievement at the high school level. The Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) is launching a new program that allows all interested public school districts to test freshmen and sophomores with the EXPLORE and PLAN ACT pre-tests. The voluntary program will provide schools with valuable testing information to monitor student achievement in high schools where currently only juniors are tested. ISBE is making the program available to public school districts at no charge.
“This program will give schools the opportunity to gauge the educational progress of their freshman and sophomores, as they prepare to take college entrance exams their junior year,” said Gov. Blagojevich. “School districts and students alike will benefit from the kind of information these tests provide – from curriculum decisions inside the classroom to college and career preparation beyond high school.”
The tests are part of the ACT Corporation’s Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS), which consists of three testing programs: EXPLORE for eighth and ninth grades, PLAN for tenth grade, and the ACT test for eleventh and twelfth grades. Illinois’ juniors already take the ACT test as part of the statewide Prairie State Achievement Exam (PSAE), which is given each spring.
“By using the EXPLORE and PLAN assessments, school districts will no longer have the two-year gap in testing data between the ISAT in the eighth grade and the PSAE in the eleventh grade,” said State Superintendent of Education Christopher A. Koch. “I want to thank Governor Blagojevich and the members of the General Assembly for supplying us with the necessary funding to initiate this program. We need to be able to provide students, teachers and administrators with this type of high quality information in order for them to be able to make sound decisions about future steps.”
Included with the EXPLORE and PLAN programs for all public high schools will be a state license for ACT online Prep. The ACT online Prep provides easy access to practice tests with real ACT questions, comprehensive content review of ACT English, Math, Reading and Science, practice essays for the ACT writing test and a diagnostic test that will provide students with a personalized study path to help them better prepare for the ACT test.
The EXPLORE assessment is designed to help prepare ninth-graders for their high school coursework and post-high school choices. It contains four curriculum-based tests: English, mathematics, reading, and science. The results from EXPLORE can also be used to help students make adjustments in their coursework to help ensure that they are prepared for what they want to do in and after high school. In addition, a portion of the test helps measure a student’s personal career choices.
The PLAN assessment helps students explore career preparation and training options, as well as prepare students for success on the ACT test. The PLAN assessment also contains four curriculum-based tests: English, mathematics, reading, and science. The results from PLAN can be used to help students make adjustments in their coursework to help ensure that they are prepared for what they want to do after high school.
Public school districts that have already placed their orders and/or completed the testing in the 2007-08 school year will be eligible for reimbursement.
This new program continues Gov. Blagojevich’s and ISBE’s work of focusing on post-secondary education and workforce preparation. Gov. Blagojevich successfully led the effort to increase Illinois’ high school graduation requirements for the first time in more than 20 years and has supported policies leading to increased rigor at our high schools, as well as better addressing the linkage between secondary and higher education. Governor Blagojevich and ISBE have also created the College and Work Readiness Partnership with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as other partners, to review existing policies and programs to improve student success after graduation. ISBE has set better preparation of students for success after graduation as one of its top issues.