10/01/2012 03:28 pm ET Updated Dec 01, 2012

Are You Ready?

In the broadest sense, tests tell you if you're ready for what's next.

Are you ready to move on to the next course in school? To advance to the next level of piano, karate, dance or swimming lessons? To succeed in college? To begin your career? To earn a professional license or certification? To pass the bar exam?

Test results can reward hard work and provide a sense of pride. They also provide information that can be used to improve readiness.

At ACT, we could not be prouder of our assessments. They are based on extensive research on what skills are taught in school and important for success in college and in jobs. We closely study actual outcomes to verify that our assessments provide accurate benchmarks, tirelessly updating our knowledge to ensure that we are achieving our mission. And we work hard to eliminate any potential bias and to ensure that the content of our assessments is calibrated with international standards.

But despite our pride in the quality of our assessments, we believe that tests are most valuable when their results are used to help improve readiness. What's most important is not the assessment itself, but what's next -- the insight it brings to help you improve your readiness for success in the next lesson, the next level, or the next job.

Success is a lifelong journey, and individuals need help to navigate that journey; they need insight and guidance to stay on track at every step along the way. We have learned that the sooner individuals start receiving that insight and guidance, the better their chances are for success later on. In fact, our research has shown that students who aren't on track for college and career readiness by eighth grade face long odds in making up that lost ground by the time they graduate from high school.

That's why ACT is expanding its core identity. We have adopted a new vision and strategic direction to better address the needs of individuals throughout their lives. Our goal is to provide insights that unlock potential throughout the kindergarten-to-career continuum through a system of aligned, interconnected programs. ACT wants to do more than assess skills. We want be a partner at every stage in life's learning and development process, helping people achieve their personal goals.

Our new focus is a natural extension of the work we've been doing throughout our existence. With more than 50 years of experience in measuring student achievement and more than 20 years of experience in assessing workforce-related skills, we feel we are in a unique position to help improve college and career readiness for individuals along this continuum.

Our new direction is exemplified by ACT Aspire, the new next generation assessment system we are now developing that will connect assessment, teaching and learning from elementary grades through high school. Its goal is to provide insights to educators, parents and students that help students start strong in the early grades and then stay on track throughout their schooling.

ACT is committed to assessing the whole person -- competencies, career interests and character. By providing individuals with insights that help unlock their potential from kindergarten to career across multiple dimensions, we can assist them in achieving professional and personal success. We want to help them improve themselves -- and prove that they are ready for what's next.

Multiplied by the tens of millions of people we intend to touch in a few short years, we expect to make a real impact on the educational and economic trajectory of our nation.

Assessments tell us if we're ready--and provide insight into how we can better prepare -- for what's next. We believe that an integrated teaching, learning and assessment system that spans the kindergarten through career continuum will provide richer information resulting in better insights that help people reach their potential.

It's going to take hard work, but ACT is ready to start. Today.