Monday, August 10, 2009

Most Ky. juniors aren't ready for college, ACT results show

Are our 4-year olds ready for 1st grade? College readiness is an important issue for Kentucky, but when I was high school junior, I wasn't ready for college either. I'm just sayin'.

Here some background on the ACT from KSN&C:

Skip Kifer's pieces - To Predict or Not to Predict and A Narrow View of Student Potential

Ben Oldham's piece - Adding Understanding to ACT Scores

And my little rant - What the Bluegrass Institute Doesn't seem to know About the ACT

Susan Weston Spanks the ACT's PLAN test here and CPE President Robert King here.

This from the Herald-Leader:

Kentucky's public high school juniors improved their math scores slightly on the ACT this year, but scores on the test in other subjects remained flat or fell slightly.

The 2009 ACT scores also show that less than half of public high school juniors in Kentucky are ready to do college-level work in English, algebra and other subjects...

Overall, state ACT scores changed little from 2008. The report suggests no dramatic overall trends, because this is only the second year that all juniors in Kentucky public schools have been required to take the ACT. The test assesses students' ability to complete college work and is considered the most widely accepted college entrance exam.

Kentucky is one of only a handful of states requiring the test, which assesses English, reading, mathematics and science skills. Each subject is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The test is administered statewide on the same day.

Monday's ACT report drew a variety of responses from educational experts around the state.

Richard Day...said that with only two years of scores, it's too soon to declare a trend. Even if a trend were spotted, Day said, it would be tough to assign a meaning.

"What would you attribute that to? The ACT curriculum is not what Kentucky teaches," Day said.

Rather, Day said, the ACT is one of several measures for evaluating student performance, designed to distinguish "between good students and very good students." ...

...Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the state education department, said the relatively low level of college preparation might reflect that many juniors hadn't taken upper-level courses yet.

Robert King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, said that the state's educational bureaucracy is trying to figure out how to align high school curricula so that students will arrive at college better prepared. The step is one of several educational changes required under legislation passed by the General Assembly this year.

As things stand now, King said, Kentucky students can do everything that's asked of them in K-12 and not be competitive in college. The goal, he said, is for colleges to communicate what they expect incoming students to know, and for Kentucky's elementary and secondary education system to teach it...

...Yvonne Baldwin, an administrator at Morehead State University, cautioned against putting too much stock in ACT results.

"Relying on the ACT as the sole measure of college readiness is a trap, because it gives too much power to the test," Baldwin said. "I think we need to go back to teaching high school in high school, and college in college. ... The national trend data says that a rigorous high school experience is the best indicator of college success. And I don't think that's happening for a lot of students."


Anonymous said...

These rather mediocre test scores seem clear proof that Teaching to the Test will not serve the students of Kentucky, or that the so-called Kentucky Core Content is weak when it comes to nationally normed tests.....

Can one use a calculator on the ACT now?

Anonymous said...

I disagree that the problem is the KY Core Content. Students who are taking existng rigorous courses with quality teaching are doing fine on the ACT and getting into college with all kinds of scholarships. The trick is preparing and motivating more students to be able to take those courses in high school, preparing more teachers to be able to teach those courses with consistent quality so more students can have access to them, and including parents in the loop so they can provide external motivation and support or seek it out in community organizations.

It's not about making major changes to the curriculum. It's about making major changes to how we use data to inform teaching and learning.

Anonymous said...

As a teacher in the Kentucky public schools, I can only say this. Kentucky needs a nationally normed test for all students to take. We used to do this when students took the CTBS. I believe the only national tests we now give are the ACT and the SAT tests, and these prove that educational reform has not made the gains we say it has.

Why are students allowed to use their calculators on the tests that are used to collect data for No Child Left Behind? Why are is there so much coaching on how to take the reading tests? At our school, we focus on showing kids how to answer the KDE-like questions. We focus all of our teaching on creating tests that have been released by KDE. It's demoralizing. We are not teaching reading or math; we are teaching kids how to take tests.

Anonymous said...

I'd be interested to see the ACT data differentiated between college bound and non-college bound students (and, perhaps, undecided).

I also wonder what motivation a non-college bound student has to perform well on this (mandated) ACT?

As for calculators, they are only helpful if a student understands how/when to use one, imho.