This story started with an Op-Ed titled “Time to Raise Expectations for Education,” from Bob King, the President of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE).
This article was mainly meant to introduce parents and general Kentucky citizens to the CPE’s “High School Feedback Reports,” which are loaded with interesting information about what happens to graduates of Kentucky high schools once they enter college.
King also talks about how the current school curriculum isn’t aligned to college and workplace needs and that we need to refocus. He also takes a shot at adults in the system who tend to protect themselves first before looking to the needs of their students.
Overall, it was a good message, but it was bound to raise the ire of those who have pushed the status quo, who don’t like to admit to problems with our current assessment system, and who therefore don’t like the message contained in the feedback reports and other indicators like ACT test results.
Ire was indeed raised, and a reaction to King’s article was penned by Skip Kifer, a retired professor from UK’s school of education. As a note, Kifer played a major role in designing Kentucky’s first reform assessment, which was widely known as KIRIS. He also testified in favor of keeping a CATS-like assessment when this program’s future was being debated, and finally, mercifully ended, in 2009.
Kifer takes strong issue with King, saying King implies that the ACT test is used as the sole determinant of whether or not students needed to take remedial courses in college.
That’s just not right.
In fact, ACT scores are just the first step in the process of determining whether students will have to take a remedial course in Kentucky’s colleges. Step two happens when kids arrive on the campus. They take more placement tests to confirm if the ACT scores provide a valid picture of their true preparation. Colleges also consider a students GPA’s, according to a CPE spokesperson, before making that final placement decision.
Of course, GPA inflation is an on-going problem in Kentucky, fueled in part by pressure from the KEES Scholarship program, which can reward more money for higher GPAs. Sometimes, despite Kifer’s assertions, GPAs no longer always provide trustworthy information, either. That’s why Kentucky colleges also use the ACT to more accurately determine placement.
Anyway, Kifer’s obvious adverse reaction to the ACT test isn’t really a surprise. Kifer has gone on public record about his problems with multiple choice tests.
In his rebuttal, Kifer even attempts to undermine the ACT by citing results from a rather old UK study. This was performed years ago on ACT scores from the Class of 1993. Kifer would have us believe the ACT of today is no different from those assessments given nearly two decades ago. I suspect the ACT actually enjoyed the benefit of a lot of subsequent research during that long period of time.
Another fact seems pertinent. Two testing systems loaded with open-response heavy question formats that Kifer prefers have failed miserably in Kentucky. Those systems didn’t get our schools focused on what kids really needed. Our colleges say so, and so do industrial leaders.
And, if Kifer had just called the CPE first, he could have learned about what really happens in the college placement process.