Adoption of ACT Aspire Periodic Assessments

This study examines the effects of adoption of ACT Aspire Periodic Assessments on student academic growth, as measured by the ACT Aspire Summative Assessments. A difference-in-difference analysis shows that adoption of the ACT Aspire Interim Assessments leads to improvements in academic growth.

Averaging results across all subject areas and grade levels, adoption typically led to an increase in student growth of 1.3 student growth percentile units, which is comparable to moving from the 50th percentile of school growth to the 56th percentile of school growth. The effect of adoption was strongest for English (+2.9 growth percentile units), followed by Science (+1.4 growth percentile units) and Math (+1.1 growth percentile units). For reading, effects of adoption were inconsistent across grade levels.

Generally, positive effects of adoption were larger for lower grade levels. There was also evidence of Periodic Assessment dosage effects, as student growth increased with more Interim and Classroom Assessments taken. Higher performance on the Interim Assessments was predictive of higher academic growth, as measured by the Summative Assessments.

While the study showed positive effects of ACT Aspire Periodic Assessment, it did not address how the assessment data was used, or how variation in assessment use related to differences in improvement. One idea for additional research would be to survey schools that have used Aspire’s Periodic Assessments to understand variation in how the assessment data are used and whether different usage types are related to student growth.

Author: Jeff Allen, PhD

Jeff Allen is a statistician and director in Validity and Efficacy Research. He specializes in longitudinal research of educational outcomes, student growth models, and validation of college readiness measures.


The ACT Aspire Periodic Assessments include Interim and Classroom Assessments. The Periodic Assessments can be taken at any time during the academic year, and there are four Interim test forms and 10 Classroom test forms for each subject area (English, Math, Reading, and Science) and grade level (grades 3-10 for Interim, grades 3-8 for Classroom).

The Interim and Classroom Assessments are fixed-format, computer-based, and multiple choice. The Interim tests are untimed, and teachers typically allow 45 minutes or less, while the Classroom tests take 10 to 15 minutes. The Interim tests can be thought of as abbreviated versions of the Summative tests, covering the same knowledge and skills and using the same reporting categories as the Summative test.

Within grade level and subject area, the content of the Interim tests is not sequenced. Thus, any of the four test forms can be administered at any point during the academic year. Conversely, each Classroom test is mapped to one or two content standards, and teachers can administer the tests in conjunction with lessons or instructional units. Both types of assessments offer immediate reporting. Interim provides reports for students or parents, teachers (or other user-defined groups of students), schools, and districts.

Classroom provides reports for students (or parents) and teachers (or other user-defined groups). Reports for both assessments include item response analysis. In general, interim assessments are used to

  1. generate data to inform instruction
  2. gauge how well students are progressing towards meeting academic standards
  3. help students prepare for summative assessments
  4. evaluate educational programs

Classroom assessment generally refers to assessment practices that are intertwined with instruction, designed to allow students to demonstrate their learning with a clear purpose of supporting teaching and learning. Typically, classroom assessment occurs in short cycles coinciding with learning objectives.

The stated purpose of ACT Aspire’s Periodic Assessments is "to help students prepare for the ACT Aspire Summative assessment". One way to determine if it is fulfilling this purpose is to examine the effect of using the Aspire Periodic Assessments on academic growth, as measured by the ACT Aspire Summative Assessment.

Use of the Aspire Periodic Assessments could lead to improved student growth due to

  1. feedback to teachers and instructional coaches on curricular areas that should be strengthened or retaught
  2. individualized diagnosis of knowledge, skills, and abilities (KSAs) in need of improvement
  3. greater recognition of the KSAs tested by Aspire Summative
  4. practice with items measuring the KSAs tested by Aspire Summative (e.g., summative test prep)

This study examines effects of adopting ACT Aspire Periodic Assessments on student academic growth. Specifically, the study examined the effects of school-wide adoption of Aspire Interim Assessments on student growth measured by the Aspire Summative Assessments. The study provides initial evidence of how use of Aspire’s Periodic Assessments can lead to improvements in academic growth.