A Common Core concern
New EXPLORE test results dated January 29, 2015 from the fall administration of the current 2014-2015 school term quietly appeared in the Kentucky Department of Education’s Supplemental Data web page recently. So far, there has been no news release from the department.
And, there is a problem.
The EXPLORE Readiness Benchmarks are linked to actual college readiness data from the ACT college entrance test. In fact, the ACT, Inc. creates both EXPLORE and the ACT. Meeting EXPLORE Benchmarks provides a good indication that students as of the eighth grade are progressing on track to eventually be college ready.
Kentucky has administered EXPLORE to all eighth grade public school students since the 2006-07 school term. It is a stable assessment program. So, Bluegrass State percentages need to be on the increase.
But, that’s not happening.
Here is a graph showing the percentages of Kentucky students that met or exceeded the EXPLORE Benchmark Scores in English, math, reading and science over the years that Kentucky administered this assessment. The recent trend doesn’t look good.
The 2014-15 school year results for Common Core subjects are uniformly lower than in at least some previous years.
• English has been in steady decline for two years.
• Reading performance is notably lower now than last year and is also lower than results for all but one year since 2009-10, as well.
• Math performance also dropped from 2013-14 and with only one exception, the 2014-15 math Benchmark performance is the worst in the past five years.
Decays in English, reading and math are particularly problematic because these are Common Core State Standards subjects. Kentucky began using new Common Core tests in the 2011-12 school term. The revised education program should be stabilizing, and we should not see this sort of statewide decay on a readiness test closely linked to real college requirements if Common Core is really working in Kentucky. The lines on the graph above indicate that at the eighth grade level, at least, Common Core in Kentucky has a problem.
Science isn’t specifically covered by Common Core although Common Core materials do include reading suggestions for the subject. However, Kentucky has not performed well on EXPLORE science in the past two years, either. The best science performance was posted by the eighth grade class of 2012-13, two years earlier. There was a notable, 4-point drop in the percentage of Kentucky students meeting the science benchmark between 2012-13 and the new results.
Unfortunately, relatively low percentages of Kentucky’s students meet the EXPLORE Benchmarks. In the current 2014-15 school term all Kentucky EXPLORE Benchmark numbers are below the latest available national norms. Kentucky needs to see improving EXPLORE results, not decay.