Thursday, August 18, 2011

Kentucky juniors improve slightly on ACT, but most still aren't college-ready

This from the Herald-Leader:
Scores on the ACT test taken by juniors in Kentucky's public high schools in the spring improved slightly over last year in most subject areas, according to results released Wednesday by the state Department of Education.

The composite score for Kentucky juniors this year was 18.8, up from 18.5 in 2010.

Average scores in English rose from 17.8 last year to 18 this year. Math went up from 18.3 to 18.5; reading from 18.9 to 19, and science from 18.7 to 19.

Students who achieve so-called "benchmark" scores or higher on the ACT are considered ready for college-level courses. Those benchmark scores are 18 in English, 22 in math, 21 in reading and 24 in science.

According to ACT officials, students who reach benchmark scores have a 50 percent chance of getting a grade of B or higher, or a 75 percent chance of getting a C or higher, in corresponding first-year college credit courses.

Test data released Wednesday show that the percentages of Kentucky juniors ready for college work have increased fairly steadily since Kentucky started requiring juniors to take the ACT in 2008.
Search ACT data at H-L.
In a story released yesterday in H-L:
The percentage of Kentucky high school graduates reaching benchmark scores on the ACT test improved in some subjects this year, but educators still have much work to do, results being released Wednesday show.

For example, more than 35 percent of Kentuckians who graduated from high school this spring failed to achieve any benchmark score on the ACT. The benchmark scores indicate likely success in college.

The Kentucky numbers are included in the national 2011 Condition of College and Career Readiness Report, which ACT Inc. [released] Wednesday morning at the Jessamine Career and Technology Center in Nicholasville...
In an apparent effort to be fair and balanced the story quoted a politician from the Bluegrass Institute who made no effort toward either.
Richard Innes, an analyst with the free-market Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, contended that scores from Louisiana, another 100 percent testing state, show the potential of charter schools. Louisiana opened large numbers of charters after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Innes noted that Louisiana's 2011 ACT composite score was 20.2, compared with Kentucky's 19.6. Louisiana's scores for white and African-American students also were significantly higher than Kentucky's, he said.

"There definitely are indications here that a well-run charter program could help us a lot," Innes said.
The fact that Innes unabashedly suggested a causal relationship between charters and the ACT is not surprising - not as surprising as the fact that H-L continualy returns to him and other politicians at BIPPS as sources for education analysis in news stories. Their stuff belongs on the opinion pages.

For example, Innes has cited Tennessee's value-added system as a shining example of what Kentucky should aspire to. Yet, "Kentucky, with an overall composite ACT score of 19.6, edged ahead of Tennessee, whose composite was 19.5." Is that proof enough for Innes that value-added systems don't work?

Where is the Bluegrass Institute's press release abandoning their support for such systems?


Skip Kifer said...

The Innes comment shows one can say anything these days. One can even call a score on the ACT a readiness score. KDE and CPE should be fighting this stuff rather than endorsing it.

I think Louisiana's 100 percent (I doubt it) beat Kentucky's 100 percent (doubt that ,too) because Louisiana has the Gulf of Mexico to swim in.

Anonymous said...

Do you think teachers shoulder responsibility for Kentucky juniors not being college-ready?

Richard Day said...

August 18, 2011 11:51 PM: In my mind, Kentucky seniors need to be college-ready. Kentucky juniors, somewhat less so. But with senior year being such a waste of time these days (especially spring semester) if a student is not college-ready by junior year, there doesn't seem to be a lot to help get them there during senior year.

I hope what I've just said is an overstatement. But after putting four kids through "a fine Lexington high school" I got the distinct impression that the school encouraged slacking, especially from the college bound.
Anytime something came up outside of the school the faculty seemed to encourage the students to go there instead.

I learned, after the fact one day, that one of my daughters was encouraged to attend the district wrestling championships during the school day. Aside from boys in singlets, I'm not sure what the attraction was since she had shown no interest in wrestling before or since. To her, it was, happily, an excuse for a day off.

Community-based education programs were of questionable value and soon became an opportunity to get lunch off campus. It was like....check in, go to first hour, leave school, don't come back. Comments from my EKU students lead me to believe that our experience was nowhere close to unique.

There seems to be a prevalent attitude among some school reformers (and nearly all legislators) that we only need to legislate the changes we wish to see...and presto. No new support for students or teachers - just new law. This is so incredibly stupid that it worries me when the American public puts up with it.

KDE has made a valiant effort considering the steadily declining resources. The establishment of anchor standards for colleges allow for a more seamless P-20 system. They ought to be firmed up over the next couple of years. What remains is for Kentucky high schools to make every day, all year, a meaningful educational experience.

I fear, at present, we are simply wasting too much of our precious time - in a state that teachers among the fewest days in America.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Richard, you fussed so much about Innes that I had to see what he was actually saying in the Bluegrass Institute web site.

Looks like Tennessee's whites outperformed ours.

If I understand this right, the only reason Kentucky beat out Tennessee in the overall ACT averages was because Kentucky has more whites, who score much higher than blacks, to average into the overall score.

Louisiana also did better than we did, both for blacks and whites.

Maybe Innes thinks that is important? Maybe Jim Warren does, too??

Richard Day said...


Whatever affection he may feel for Tennessee blacks notwithstanding, his reasoning, as quoted in H-L, dealt with composite scores from which he drew a causal conclusion.

The issue for Innes is that he is obliged by the ideological bent of those who pay him to promote charter schools and it apparently does not matter how he does it.

Now let me be clear - for a politician, that's perfectly fine. But for one who claims to be an education analyst, thus suggesting some measure of scholarly rigor, it is a total sham.

I have worked with Richard and I know he is not an ignorant man. He knows better, and that is my objection. He decries the poor state of scholarship in education (sometimes rightly) while contributing to the problem mightily.

I chose not to write about the so called "research" he did,somewhere around December,where he literally invented a KDE program that never existed, (called it Fuzzy Math) and then criticized it. That part of the report was a shameful fabrication and the report would not have survived any respectable peer review. But no matter, because they are a political group, and not a research group (beyond looking stuff up), there was no peer review. Instead, there were press releases about this important research...brought to you by BIPPS.

Go back and read some more. Then see if you can refute the fact that scant little data or commentary at BIPPS will ever get in the way of the political message: that public schools, writ large, are no good; that teachers are a sorry lot; those who join unions are worse; that government is incapable of producing anything good; and that public funds, including vouchers (but in the short term they will settle for charters) can't get into the hands of powerful private individuals fast enough.

The confusion for many is that Innes is not always wrong. Occasionally he accurately points out areas in need of improvement in the public system. His early criticism of graduation rate calculations is perhaps the best example. The rest of the time he cherry-picks any data that fit his foregone conclusions.

That is not science.

That is not research.

That is politics.

Apparently, new BIPPS honcho Phil Moffett wants the group to think less and do more (or something like that). That would certainly be a more honest approach.

Anonymous said...

Point to me seems to be that after boat loads of multiple variations of curriculum and countless assessment, not to mention the endless amount of documentation from the classroom to KDE and thousands of hours of "professional development" that since 1990 we have spent a lot of money and a lot of time chasing our tail with different KDE mandates and our kids are really not much more ready than they were before all the reform according to this report. Wonder how the Chinese were ever able to best us without democracy and KDE?