Curriculum, News

Navigating Change: Preparing for the Arkansas ATLAS Effectively with Progress Learning



Many educators in Arkansas have been closely watching the changes to the state’s educational system, from inclusion to funding to state standards. One of the biggest changes is the transition to the Arkansas Teaching and Learning Assessment System (ATLAS). This comprehensive assessment system is set to replace the out-of-the-box solution previously used, ACT Aspire®

ATLAS 3-10: A Somewhat More Tailored Approach to Assessment

Debuting in Spring 2024, the ATLAS test will replace ACT Aspire® in grades 3-10 as a statewide summative assessment for English language arts (ELA), math, and science. The Arkansas Department of Education has put forth several reasons for this switchover

Cambium Assessment, the selected vendor for the test, has advocated for a statewide exam tied specifically to Arkansas Academic Standards. The Arkansas LEARNS Act has acknowledged that only 35% of students are reading at grade level. Changing the test to align with state standards is one of the many ways to ensure Arkansas students graduate college and career ready. 

Cambium Assessment has also advocated that the statewide test be adaptive. The ATLAS test will adapt to the rigor within the given grade band of the student, without going above or below the identified grade level of that student. 

ATLAS marks a departure from its predecessor by focusing on grade-specific learning objectives rather than projecting college readiness. This shift aims to create a more cohesive picture of student performance by harmonizing standards, curriculum, and assessments. The decision to streamline assessments and promote consistency across grade levels means that if educators focus on teaching grade-level-appropriate, high-quality texts and pair them with rigorous questions and tasks, students should be ready to achieve success on the ATLAS test.

What Do We Know About ATLAS Already?

There have been unexpected challenges with the rollout of ATLAS, which have left some schools and educators feeling unsteady as we head into the first year of the test. The testing platform is live, and schools can practice the format and access multiple readings and assessment questions that should mirror the testing experience. Here’s what we know so far:

  • While there will eventually be a test bank for all state standards in testable grades and subject areas, items are still being created and the full bank will most likely not be available before testing.
  • The test is not timed. All students will have a full school day to complete each subject area. 
  • Students can highlight, underline, take notes on a digital notepad, earmark questions for later, and access a digital dictionary. These are all standard accommodations for every student. 
  • Questions can be read aloud on the test, but there is no read-aloud option for the texts.

How Can Educators Best Prepare Arkansas Students for ATLAS?

The best way to prepare students for the ATLAS test is to ensure that they are getting the right mix of grade-level learning and interventions. The unfortunate reality is that, for some students in Arkansas, the first time they will grapple with grade-level texts and tasks alone will be on the new ATLAS test. According to a 2018 study from the national educational non-profit The New Teacher Project (TNTP), students are only exposed to grade-level texts and tasks around 17% of the time. Make sure this is not the case and provide on-grade-level practice and interventions as early as possible.

Can Progress Learning Help? 

A resounding yes. Progress Learning blends rigorous on-grade-level texts and tasks in ELA, math, and science, alongside targeted interventions and immediate data on student progress. Students can access rigorous grade-level texts and tasks daily, as well as interventions based on reported needs. 

Progress Learning facilitates daily engagement with rigorous texts and tasks at grade level. This consistent exposure is crucial in building the confidence and skills necessary for students to tackle the challenges presented by the ATLAS test. As students interact with on-grade-level material, they develop a deeper resiliency with the work before the test, increasing their success on both ATLAS and throughout their educational career.

Furthermore, Progress Learning understands that each student is unique and tailors interventions based on reported needs. Whether it’s additional support in a specific subject area or personalized strategies for improvement, our platform suggests adaptations to the individual requirements of each learner. This targeted approach ensures that students receive the support they need to bridge any gaps in their understanding. 

TL;DR – What’s Next with the ATLAS Test?

Beginning in Spring 2024, the ATLAS test is replacing the ACT Aspire® test for Arkansas students in grades 3-10 in ELA, math, and science. While it retains some of the same qualities as ACT Aspire®, the test is adaptive within a given grade band, removes some of the accommodations, and is untimed. A test bank will be fully available by 2025, but some released items are being updated in advance of the 2024 test. 

Because this test is written to the grade-level standards for Arkansas specifically, the best thing educators can do to prepare is make sure students are working both on grade-level material and targeted interventions. Progress Learning seamlessly blends rigorous on-grade-level texts and tasks across ELA, math, and science. Beyond mere content delivery, Progress Learning incorporates targeted interventions, ensuring that each student receives personalized support aligned with their specific needs. 

Students need access to grade-level material and interventions to improve outcomes. Progress Learning can effectively do both Tier 1 curriculum and intervention, as well as provide personalized support to schools and educators. For our Arkansas educators and students, we’re more than a solution — we’re a partner.

Request a demo today to learn how you can use Progress Learning to prepare for the new ATLAS test! 

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