The Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) got a lot of bad news during its meeting on Wednesday, December 9, 2015. This news isn’t just bad for Kentucky. It has rather serious implications for the national Common Core State Standards (CCSS) for math and English language arts, as well.
Very simply, scores are flat or in decline on just about all the tests given in Kentucky including college entrance tests and even the state’s own, Common Core aligned tests, too.
And now, we are getting word that college professors in Kentucky are seeing a decline in the preparation of incoming students, too. That does not bode well for Common Core or the Bluegrass State.
Kentucky was the first state to adopt the CCSS and now has completed four years of Common Core aligned testing. Given its nation-leading history with Common Core, a discussion that took place during the “Strategic Plan Update” part of the KBE’s meeting is very significant.
Without question, the board’s update is loaded with bad news. While discussing test scores from both the state’s own assessments, known as the Kentucky Performance Rating for Education Progress (KPREP) tests, and also from the ACT college readiness tests, terms like “Decreased,” “Declined” and “Flat” came up again and again. In the few cases where some progress could be cited, scores were not improving nearly fast enough to meet the board’s own growth targets.
Notable performance increases were only mentioned for two items, the “Four-Year Adjusted Cohort High School Graduation Rate” and the state’s “College and/or Career Ready Rate” (CCR), as this should properly be labeled.
After receiving extensive bad news about almost all of the state’s education indicators, including the information on briefing Slide 5 (below) that Kentucky’s 11th grade testing with the ACT college entrance test in 2015 produced lower scores in both English and math – especially so in math – board chair Roger Marcum raised yet another concern about the credibility of the state’s reported College and/or Career Ready Rates.
After all, if ACT scores are sliding, can college readiness really be improving in Kentucky? But, Marcum had more than ACT scores on his mind. Marcum had heard something disturbing before the start of the board’s meeting.
Bob King, president of the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) said that he is starting to hear from college professors in Kentucky that “students aren’t ready” for college even if they meet the ACT Benchmark Scores set by the CPE. Those CPE Benchmark Scores are supposed to indicate such readiness, and the College and/or Career Ready numbers are based in large measure on the proportion of students that meet those CPE-set scores. However, Marcum pointed out that the CPE Benchmark Scores for math and reading are lower than those set by the ACT, itself. How can that be if the ACT bases its Benchmark Scores on an average of what colleges around the nation report are the minimum ACT scores related to freshman achieving successful grades in their first college courses?
Concerns about the CCR data won’t surprise our readers. Over the past year we have been talking about a well-conducted, data-based report from the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability that raises strong concerns that the college ready calculations from the Kentucky Department of Education do appear inflated.
In any event, don’t forget that Common Core is supposed to improve readiness for college and careers. So, the news that Kentucky’s college professors are beginning to say that the readiness of incoming students is actually dropping after four years of Common Core is a very important deal.
Furthermore, the fact that the Kentucky Board of Education seems to finally be getting the message about the dubious validity of their CCR statistics, which adds to concerns already expressed by state legislators, is a big development, too.
To be sure, aside from the ACT scores already mentioned, the most recent news about Kentucky’s education system generally isn’t good. Except for two statistics, the College and/or Career Ready Rate and the High School Graduation Rate, the numbers are flat or even in decline.
Even the Kentucky Department of Education is admitting that.
For example, Slide 11 in the Kentucky Department of Education’s Strategic Plan Update briefing to the KBE on December 9, 2015 shows things don’t look so hot for KPREP performance in a grade-by-grade comparison. Except for Grade 3, the elementary and middle school math performance dropped between 2014 and 2015 for all the other tested elementary and middle school grades, four to eight. Reading performance was scarcely much better, overall characterized as “flat” by the department of education’s briefer.
Performance for student subgroups that historically have had achievement gap problems generally mirrored the overall results, as well. The Department’s briefing slide 14 characterizes the performance for these student groups as “flat or decreasing.” Furthermore, it is obvious from current trends that these groups will not meet the performance “Delivery Targets” the KBE has set.
Decoding the Educationese:
FRPL is Free and Reduced Price Lunch
LEP is Limited English Proficiency
SWD is Students with Disabilities
The KBE didn’t review other testing data, but we have already discussed in previous blogs that:
• Kentucky’s performance on the ACT, Inc.’s EXPLORE (Grade 8) and PLAN (Grade 10) college readiness tests over the past four years was mostly a decline situation for the state’s black students and even white scores sank in some cases. Furthermore, the white minus black achievement gaps on both EXPLORE and PLAN grew in every area tested: English, math, reading and science.
The bottom line: Common Core had a bad test year in Kentucky in the 2014-15 school term, and that bad news seems to be migrating to our colleges in the 2015-16 term. These facts are not good news for either Kentucky or the Common Core State Standards in general.
See for yourself
The board’s remarkable discussion about the disappointing test scores and the validity of the CCR statistics started during the “Strategic Plan Update” part of the meeting about 1 hour, four minutes and 20 seconds into the afternoon session, which was videoed and is online.