Not good news for Common Core
The new 2015 Unbridled Learning public school accountability results are now out for Kentucky, and the first thing I looked at turned out to be something of a surprise. Here is what I found when I looked at how the trends for eighth grade math and reading from Unbridled Learning’s Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (KPREP) tests compared to the results from the ACT, Inc.’s EXPLORE tests. EXPLORE is a well-established college readiness test also administered to all public school students in Kentucky.
This first graph shows the results for reading. It compares the percentage of students who scored at or above EXPLORE’s Reading Benchmark Score to the percentage of students who scored proficient or above on the KPREP. Reaching the EXPLORE Benchmark Score indicates students are on track as of the eighth grade for college
As you can see, the scores for EXPLORE reading took a rather notable downward turn for Kentucky’s eight grade students in the 2014-15 school term. However, the KPREP reading took a notable upward tick. As a consequence, the disagreement in these two assessments for reading is now nearly three times larger than it was when KPREP testing started. The KPREP scores are now 14 points higher than the EXPLORE scores although the difference when the KPREP started in 2011-12 was only five points.
There is a serious indication here that the KPREP reading results are becoming very notably inflated, at least for the eighth grade. This is exactly the sort of problem that destroyed credibility of the earlier KIRIS and CATS-era Kentucky Core Content Tests that KPREP replaced.
Something different has happened with the math results, as this second graph shows.
The rather sharp drop in math performance in 2014-15 on EXPLORE was matched somewhat by a very small decay in KPREP math, as well.
This is not good news for Common Core. On both of the math tests, the declines in performance in 2014-15 present a notable warning that Common Core aligned math isn’t working well for Kentucky’s top middle school grade.
Furthermore, the 12-point difference in performance on the KPREP versus the EXPLORE indicates that the KPREP scores are also somewhat inflated. That translates to thousands more Kentucky students who KPREP says are on track that really are not.
These developments have some important implications.
For one thing, the evidence from the EXPLORE is clear in both math and reading. Despite all the great things Kentucky has been told about Common Core State Standards, which cover both math and English language arts, in both subjects Kentucky’s eighth grade performance is decayed from where it was in 2013 and in reading that decay extends back to 2011-12.
Regarding KPREP reading, the EXPLORE’s now sharply diverging trend creates very serious concern that the apparent small improvement on KPREP is due to scoring inflation, not a real increase in performance.
Regarding KPREP math, the trend more closely matches EXPLORE although the KPREP scores are still notably inflated by comparison. This consistent story of stagnation or decline in math serves a strong warning that Common Core aligned math is faltering in Kentucky.
I’ll be looking at more KPREP results in the next few days, so stay tuned.
Where the data comes from
The KPREP scores come from individual Kentucky School Report Cards for the state for the years from 2011-12 to 2014-15. These can be accessed here.
Things get a bit more interesting when I searched for the EXPLORE scores in the new state report card. To my surprise, this is what I found on the EXPLORE Page.
Imagine that. The report card doesn’t show you the EXPLORE data, claiming the state does not have an eighth grade!
You actually have to go to this link in the Supplemental Data pages of the department’s web site to find this rather disappointing data. I wonder why???
This is a sad mistake because you can find extensive EXPLORE data broken out by race and so forth in the report cards up to 2013-14. Of course, when the news is bad….
(Update at 8:45 am Eastern — The EXPLORE and PLAN data have now been uploaded to the report cards. I wonder why it wasn’t there earlier. Stand by for more analysis)