I am listening to the Kentucky Board of Education meeting today, and a very interesting comment came up during the presentation by the president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education. That comment was that about 30% of the high school graduates in Kentucky who go on to college arrive inadequately prepared.
That got me thinking.
The 2019 high school graduation rate in Kentucky was 91 percent. That means out of every 100 entering 9th graders in the Class of 2019, 91 graduated on time four years later.
It was also mentioned this morning that about 53.5% of those high school graduates go on to college. That works out to about 49 of the 91 graduates going on to college.
Now, apply the fact that about 30% of those 49 college entrants are not prepared. That works out to about 15 entrants not prepared. So, about 34 of the entrants were prepared for college out of the original 100 students who were part of this group in the 9th grade.
In other words, if we look back to the beginning membership of this class in the 9th grade, only 34 out of 100, or 34%, eventually entered college well prepared.
Students entering college around the 2019 time frame took the NAEP as Grade 8 students around 2015.
Here are Kentucky’s 2015 NAEP proficiency rates from the NAEP Data Explorer:
Grade 8 NAEP Math – 28%
Grade 8 NAEP Reading – 36%
As a note, here are Kentucky’s 2019 NAEP proficiency rates:
Grade 8 NAEP Math – 29%
Grade 8 NAEP Reading – 38%
As you can see, the 2015 NAEP proficiency rates for Kentucky match pretty closely with the state’s demonstrated college success rates. Also, things have not changed that much on NAEP since.
Let’s bring an extra piece of information into play. Back in 2006, the ACT, Inc. put out a short paper titled “Ready for College and Ready for Work: Same or Different?”
This paper says:
“Results of a new ACT study provide empirical evidence that, whether planning to enter college or workforce training programs after graduation, high school students need to be educated to a comparable level of readiness in reading and mathematics. Graduates need this level of readiness if they are to succeed in college-level courses without remediation and to enter workforce training programs ready to learn job-specific skills.”
So, as of 2006, ACT’s research showed those not ready for college were likely not ready for living wage employment, either. And, with business and industry getting ever more technical, it doesn’t seem likely that this situation would move in a direction where even lower skills would suffice today.
Thus, it seems likely that NAEP’s Proficient score level is more than just a fairly good indicator of college readiness. It is probably in line with the proportion of our students that are adequately prepared for a living wage life.
So, let’s stop making excuses for schools by saying that the NAEP Proficient score is simply set too high. If we care about our students being prepared for life, NAEP Proficient for reading and math, at least for the Grade 8 level, is something we need to pay attention to.
By the way, back in the days when Kentucky was using the ACT EXPLORE test in Grade 8, I did a series of comparisons over time between the state’s NAEP math and reading proficiency rates and the percentage of students scoring at or above the EXPLORE Benchmark Scores that showed students were supposedly on track for college. My studies showed NAEP Proficient was on track as a solid indicator compared to EXPLORE, as well. You can see a compilation of that work by clicking here.
The point: both actual Kentucky high school graduates’ experience in college and the evidence from the ACT EXPLORE era show that NAEP Proficient really is an important indicator. Those who dismiss it are not on the right track.