Re­plac­ing ACT As­pire with the ac­tual ACT is as dumb as it gets

Cherokee County Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

Last week, our state su­per­in­ten­dent of ed­u­ca­tion an­nounced a de­ci­sion that is so spec­tac­u­larly stupid you al­most have to as­sume the in­ten­tion is to hurt our schools.

That de­ci­sion is to re­place the ACT prepa­ra­tion exam, called the ACT As­pire, with the ac­tual ACT as a mea­sure of school ac­count­abil­ity.

Think about that for a sec­ond. Re­plac­ing the prepa­ra­tion exam with the ac­tual exam is like send­ing a mi­nor league base­ball player who has a low bat­ting av­er­age up to the ma­jor league and ex­pect­ing him to start knock­ing balls out of the park.

When half of all kids from Alabama never at­tend col­lege, and half of those who do leave be­fore grad­u­at­ing with a fouryear de­gree, do we re­ally ex­pect the ma­jor­ity of them to score highly on the ACT?

In fact, the whole point of col­lege is that the stan­dards are sup­posed to be above av­er­age. If ev­ery­body had a fouryear de­gree, then that col­lege de­gree wouldn’t be any more valu­able than a high school diploma is to­day. The rea­son a de­gree of­ten means more money is be­cause not ev­ery­one has the de­gree and that level of train­ing.

Yes, gov­ern­ment should make sure that no child misses the chance to go to col­lege be­cause they can’t af­ford it or weren’t given the re­sources they needed while in K-12 to be suc­cess­ful. That’s why I have pushed ev­ery year for a lot­tery to fund col­lege schol­ar­ships for at least the first two years of school.

But ex­pect­ing ev­ery child to be col­lege ready is un­re­al­is­tic! This plan of us­ing the ACT to mea­sure whether we are meet­ing fed­eral ac­count­abil­ity re­quire­ments is only set­ting our schools up for fail­ure be­cause the col­lege stan­dards are sup­posed to be above av­er­age.

It is not the job of the gov­ern­ment and the public schools to make sure that ev­ery child goes on to get a four-year de­gree. What is the gov­ern­ment’s and the schools’ job is to make sure that ev­ery child is pre­pared for life af­ter high school. For some kids, that is a col­lege de­gree. For oth­ers, it’s a trade cer­ti­fi­ca­tion or lower level de­gree.

Some­body has to be a plumber. Some­body has to be an elec­tri­cian. Some- body has to work in the Gads­den Goodyear plant.

Even reg­is­tered nurses don’t have to have a four-year de­gree (many nurses have an as­so­ciate’s de­gree from one of Alabama’s com­mu­nity col­leges). Most jobs, in fact, don’t re­quire a four-year col­lege de­gree. And the prob­lem we have in this state is not that we don’t have enough peo­ple with col­lege de­grees to do the jobs that re­quire a de­gree. Our prob­lem is that we have too many peo­ple who don’t have that mid­dle level of ed­u­ca­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence that is re­quired to do the jobs that are avail­able — jobs that pay well (some­times even bet­ter than some of the jobs that re­quire a col­lege de­gree) but re­quire spe­cial­ized ex­pe­ri­ence and train­ing, such as con­struc­tion, weld­ing or ma­chine au­to­ma­tion.

This un­re­al­is­tic goal of hav­ing ev­ery child ready to earn a four-year de­gree is leav­ing the vast ma­jor­ity of our kids without the ed­u­ca­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence that em­ploy­ers are ac­tu­ally look­ing for.

When the re­ces­sion hap­pened, em­ploy­ers did what they al­ways do dur­ing re­ces­sions: they re­placed hu­man work­ers with com­put­ers and ma­chines where they could, and started re­quir­ing higher lev­els of qual­i­fi­ca­tions from the work­ers they did hire. As the re­cov­ery has con­tin­ued, em­ploy­ers have kept these higher stan­dards and haven’t gone back to hir­ing less qual­i­fied work­ers.

The re­sult is that the mid­dle class is shrink­ing, and it will con­tinue to shrink un­til we start pro­vid­ing our chil­dren and those al­ready in the work­force with the skills and ed­u­ca­tion they ac­tu­ally need to get one of the thou­sands of good-pay­ing jobs that are avail­able in Alabama but aren’t cur­rently filled be­cause em­ploy­ers can’t find work­ers who can do the job.

This de­ci­sion to use the ACT exam as a mea­sure of fed­eral ac­count­abil­ity stan­dards is about as fool­ish as it gets. I can tell you right now that the ma­jor­ity of kids will not meet the stan­dard be­cause that’s the whole point of the exam!

The prob­lem isn’t the test, ed­u­ca­tors or stu­dents. The prob­lem is the phi­los­o­phy com­ing out of Washington and Mont­gomery. It’s a phi­los­o­phy that can’t see the for­est for the trees, and is be­ing pushed by bu­reau­crats (some of whom haven’t spent a sin­gle day in the class­room as a teacher) in­stead of ac­tual ed­u­ca­tors and em­ploy­ers.

Rep. Craig Ford rep­re­sents Gads­den and Etowah County in the Alabama House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. He served as the House Mi­nor­ity Leader from 2010-2016.

It’s sad to say, but news re­ports of con­sumer fraud are so com­mon these days that many peo­ple sim­ply ig­nore them. If you’ve al­ready been tar­geted by con­sumer fraud, you are not alone. Alabama is ranked num­ber six in the coun­try in the to­tal num­ber of con­sumer complaints re­ported to the Fed­eral Trade Com­mis­sion’s Con­sumer Sen­tinel Net­work dur­ing 2016. Our state also ranks among the top 25 in to­tal num­ber of iden­tity theft complaints re­ported over the same pe­riod. The Alabama At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice also recorded 2,779 con­sumer complaints last year.

You can re­duce your chances of be­com­ing a new vic­tim by ed­u­cat­ing your­self to rec­og­nize the signs of a scam. The Con­sumer In­ter­est Di­vi­sion of the Alabama At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice of­fers some warn­ing signs to help you iden­tify pos­si­ble tele­mar­ket­ing scams.

You have won one of three valu­able prizes. You have won a for­eign lot­tery You have been specif­i­cally se­lected to re­ceive this of­fer.

You will re­ceive a free bonus gift if you buy our prod­uct. This of­fer is only good for to­day. Fed­eral “Do Not Call Lists” do not ap­ply to our com­pany.

The war­ranty on your car is about to ex­pire, and we can sell you an ex­tended war­ranty.

You missed jury duty and must pay a fine to avoid ar­rest.

Caller claims to be from the IRS or law en­force­ment agency with a war­rant for your ar­rest if you don’t pay a fine (of­ten us­ing fake Caller ID to fool the vic­tim)

Your com­puter has a virus or some other prob­lem and caller needs your per­sonal in­for­ma­tion to fix it.

If you get a call you think is sus­pi­cious, just say “No thanks” and hang up! Don’t feel pres­sured to make an im­pul­sive de­ci­sion. Don’t give out your credit card in­for­ma­tion, check­ing ac­count num­bers, So­cial Se­cu­rity num­ber or any other per- sonal in­for­ma­tion to some­one you do not know. In many cases, not only are scam­mers at­tempt­ing to steal your money, they’re also try­ing to steal your iden­tity.

It’s a good idea to reg­is­ter your lan­d­line or cell­phone with the Na­tional Do Not Call Reg­istry at 1-888-382-1222 to help re­duce the num­ber of tele­mar­ket­ing calls. You can also check the va­lid­ity of un­so­licited of­fers with the Bet­ter Busi­ness Bureau at 1-800-824-5274.

Re­gard­ing iden­tity theft: If you be­lieve you have been vic­tim­ized, file a re­port with lo­cal law en­force­ment. Many cred­i­tors re­quest a copy of a po­lice re­port as proof you are a vic­tim of iden­tity theft. You should also con­tact the three ma­jor credit card bureaus to place a fraud alert on your credit file. Be sure to dis­pute any charges that are not yours in writ­ing and send them to the cred­i­tor.

The At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Con­sumer In­ter­est Di­vi­sion can­not serve as a pri­vate at­tor­ney or pro­vide con­sumers with le­gal ad­vice. How­ever, in many in­stances, we have been suc­cess­ful in me­di­at­ing complaints to the mu­tual sat­is­fac­tion and ben­e­fit of the con­sumer and the busi­ness.

In cer­tain cases, the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice may bring le­gal ac­tion, ei­ther civil or crim­i­nal, to en­force laws to pro­tect con­sumers from con artists and un­scrupu­lous prac­tices by busi­nesses. Last year, the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s Of­fice re­cov­ered over $11 mil­lion in penal­ties and fines from com­pa­nies op­er­at­ing fraud­u­lently in Alabama. Fur­ther­more, al­most $700,000 in con­sumer re­lief was se­cured by our of­fice.

Alabami­ans may re­port sus­pected con­sumer fraud by calling the At­tor­ney Gen­eral’s con­sumer pro­tec­tion hot­line at 1- 800- 392- 5658 or on­line at http:// www. ago. alabama. gov and click on “Con­sumer Pro­tec­tion.” To file an on­line com­plaint, use the link: http:// www.ago.alabama.gov/Page-Con­sumerPro­tec­tion-File-a-Com­plaint-01.

Bot­tom line: Don’t share your per­sonal in­for­ma­tion with any­one by email, text or phone without ver­i­fy­ing their iden­tity. Be proac­tive and re­port any sus­pi­cious ac­tiv­ity!

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