A Glasgow Daily Times July 16, 2012 article, “Board gets KSBA update” (subscription for full article in e-edition) reports on some confusing comments about EXPLORE and PLAN performance over time in the Metcalfe County School system. I’m concerned on several counts.
Not only do the numbers cited disagree with the official numbers in the Kentucky Department of Education’s web site, but the Metcalfe County assessment and accountability person seems confused about the very important meaning of the “Benchmark Scores” from EXPLORE and PLAN.
Finally, Metcalfe County’s 10th grade students in 2011-12 experienced notable drops in the percentage that were on track to be college ready in both English and mathematics, and I don’t think the news article captured that problem.
First, the Metcalfe County assessment and accountability person provides confusing information about how the Benchmark Scores for the EXPLORE and PLAN tests are related. He correctly points out that the actual numerical scores required to reach the Benchmark performance for college readiness are different on the two assessments. However, his comments become misleading because the idea behind the Benchmarks is that they are set to show students who are progressing on track at each grade level for good preparation for college and careers in English, mathematics, reading and science. The scores go up in part because we expect more from an on-track 10th grade student (who takes PLAN) than we do from the eighth graders who take EXPLORE.
It is not desirable to see the percentages of students meeting the Benchmark scores decline between the times they take EXPLORE and the time they take PLAN just because the target scores are higher on the second test.
For a better idea than Metcalfe County provided about how the EXPLORE and PLAN Benchmarks work, read the ACT, Incorporated’s web article, “What Are ACT’s College Readiness Benchmarks?”.
Now, my second concern: the Benchmark percentages listed in the article don’t agree with those published by the Kentucky Department of Education.
Furthermore, Benchmark scores for the EXPLORE to PLAN results for the years discussed in the article dropped in Metcalfe County in several subjects, at least according to the latest EXPLORE and PLAN results from the Kentucky Department of Education, which I accessed today.
This table with the Department of Education’s data shows how the eighth grade students in Metcalfe County performed against the Benchmark Scores on EXPLORE in 2009-10 and how they later did as 10th grade students in 2011-12 on PLAN.
As you can see, there was a drop in the percentage of Metcalfe County students who stayed on track for college and careers in both English and mathematics, with the math drop looking fairly serious.
On the somewhat brighter side of things, students held their own in reading and made notable improvement in science.
Still, all of the Benchmark percentages are low, even in English.
One other point: note that the class lost very few students between the eighth and 10th grade based on the number of students tested each year. The school system has retained 94.5 percent of its students across the 9th grade to shortly after the beginning of the 10th grade year, when PLAN is given. That is a good situation, even though we hate to see even one student lost.
However, we also want those students not just to graduate, but to graduate with the knowledge and skills they will need for success in college and careers. The benchmark performance in Metcalfe County shows this district has a long way to go to meet that challenge and confusion about how the Benchmarks work isn’t likely to improve that situation.