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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -
Alabama will exclusively use tests from the ACT to measure student achievement starting in third grade.
The State Board of Education started working to overhaul its statewide testing system and format several years ago. The state has been working with ACT to roll out the new tests by the end of April.
"This is groundbreaking," said State Superintendent of Education Dr. Tommy Bice during a meeting of the state school board. "We're putting a stake in the ground."
The new testing will begin in third grade with the ACT Aspire exam and continue all the way up to 12th grade with the ACT Workkeys exam starting in the Spring of 2015. Alabama is the first state in the country to use the new suite of ACT exams.
Students will also have access to free ACT test prep for the first time. All students will be assigned an access code for a website that has tools for test-taking.
The tests are aligned with Alabama's College and Career Ready Standards, which were derived from the Common Core Standards. The Common Core has become a divisive political issue in recent years with concerns from parents over a federal government takeover of education. State education officials have insisted for years that Alabama's education system is controlled by the state and that the state's standards are a guide for teachers and administrators.
Many Tea Party activists have argued that Common Core includes data mining, which is something Bice shot down during Wednesday's press conference.
"We've talked with our lawyers about this" Bice said. "We as a state will own our student data and our test result data. ACT and other entities will not own our data, and we will own all of the personally identifiable information."
The "aligned testing" will replace all of the old standardized test that students have been taking for years like the Alabama Reading and Math Test and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam.
By linking all of the ACT exams, parents will be able to track their student's progress year over year and know where they need to focus their attention.
"Now we can have a conversation of this is where your child is in math and if we stay on this trajectory, this is what we can expect," Bice said.
Bice added that the state needs to learn how to use its standardized exams better, saying that it's not just about keeping score from school to school and year.
"This isn't about comparing to AYP. These are different measures" Bice said.
The first students will take the new ACT tests on April 28.