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TestGear prepares students for the ACT

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By Ron Benningfield

Every LaRue County High School student has access to a computer program designed not only to help that pupil to score better on the ACT but also on end-of-course assessments required by the new state testing system, Unbridled Learning.
Named TestGear, the program produced by the Xap Corporation, guides students through up to 50 hours of instruction, practice and diagnostic testing.  LCHS has a site license that allows all its students to use the program.
“The biggest benefit is individualized practice,” Amanda Reed, district instructional supervisor, said. “The program starts with what they call the Brain Scan, a diagnostic exam covering all four ACT subtests subtests (English, math, reading and science).
Once the scan is complete, the program recommends certain tutorial lessons individualized to the student’s specific needs. Students have access to the whole system and can work through any lessons they want, but the brain scan, based on the student’s results, will recommend certain areas for specific practice. The program also has four practice ACT tests.
“It’s like going to a book store and buying an ACT prep book with three major bonuses:  practice can be individualized to specific student needs; practice is interactive using online tutorials rather than a static book; and we provide access to the program free of charge for all LCHS students.”
Though the program is designed specifically for the ACT, Reed said the new end-of-course assessments for high school are aligned with the college and career readiness standards which are the same standards for ACT.
“It will definitely help students with End-of-Course as well,” she said. The four courses to be assessed during the 2011-2012 school year are English II, Algebra II, biology and U.S. History.   
The end-of-course assessments Kentucky has selected are published by ACT.  QualityCore is the name of that program.
“QualityCore was designed so students who are successful with it should also be successful in meeting ACT benchmarks,” Reed said. “The purpose of the Quality Core program is to ‘raise the quality of the core courses’ to match the rigor of ACT.”
Though the standards in the Quality Core program are not those adopted by Kentucky, they are aligned with to the new state standards. Kentucky has adopted the Kentucky Core Academic Standards in language arts and math.
“These are the national Common Core standards,” said Reed. “The Common Core standards are rooted in the College Readiness Standards, which are the basis for the Quality Core program.”
“We do not yet have new state standards for science or social studies; however, with QualityCore being the assessment in place now, it has become our de-facto new standards for science and social studies.”
The end-of-course test results will count 10 percent of LCHS students’ grades for the course.
“We believe in order to be fair to our students and give them every opportunity to be successful we must teach the standards assessed by the Quality Core program.”
Students are encouraged to use TestGear during the school’s activity period, a 30-minute flexible block of time Monday-Thursday.
“Many of our students have assigned activities during this time, but for the ones not participating in these other activities we encourage them to work on TestGear,” Reed said.
By using a password, students with Internet service also have access to the program at home. Students who cannot remember their username and password or need help setting up their account can ask their academic time teacher for assistance or contact their guidance counselor.