An education policy consultant in New York is waving a large caution flag about a “Big one year increase in number of students failing Algebra 1 and ELA Regents Exam.” New York’s Regents Exams are for high school students and are similar in purpose to Kentucky’s KPREP tests.
The consultant, David Rubel, shows that for all New York students taking that state’s Algebra I Regents Exam, the percentage failing rose from 25 percent in 2016-17 to 30 percent in 2017-18.
On New York’s English Language Arts Exam, the percentage of all test takers failing rose from 16 to 21 percent over the same two years of testing.
The percentage rises in failures for New York’s students with learning disabilities was even worse, increasing seven percentage points for each test.
Kentucky, which was the first state to adopt Common Core, also should be concerned about the trend in its high school testing programs, as well. While Kentucky stopped its KPREP End-of-Course tests in 2018, the state has solid, long-term data from its consistent administration of the ACT college entrance test to all 11th grade students, which has been going on for a decade.
The table below shows the Bluegrass State’s ACT scores for the Common Core related subjects for all students from 2011-12, the first year the state used testing aligned to the Common Core, until the latest 2017-18 results.
As you can see, in 2017-18 testing, the ACT scores dropped notably from the previous year in all three Common Core related areas: English, math and reading.
In math, the drop took us all the way back to where we were in the first year that Common Core was really a player in Kentucky’s classrooms.
The declines in 2017-18 in English and reading were not quite as severe, but in both of those ACT tested areas the 2017-18 scores are lower than those the state produced in several earlier years.
To be sure, a one-year decline in test scores sometimes happens even though overall progress continues, but we need to consider what the state’s 2018 ACT scores represent in terms of readiness for college and living wage career jobs. According to ACT College Readiness Benchmark Scores established by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE), only 51.2 percent of our 11th graders met the English benchmark, just 38.9 percent met the math target, and only 47.1 percent were on track in reading.
By the way, those CPE ACT Benchmarks have real economic consequences for students and parents. In general, students who cannot reach the Benchmarks face expensive extra coursework in college, if they get admitted at all.
So, are the Kentucky Academic Standards, which remain fairly similar to the Common Core, working for our kids? I’d like to see more data, but the latest results are certainly cause for concern.