Where have all the school tests gone?

As Kentucky and other states continue using the Common Core State Standards for K to 12 education, it has never been more important to have accurate trend information from valid and reliable assessments to evaluate whether these controversial standards are really working for our kids.

But, almost all testing trend lines of use in Kentucky from ACT, Inc.’s EXPLORE, PLAN and COMPASS to even the nationwide data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress’ (NAEP) “Long Term Trend” assessments (LTT) have been severed.

How convenient for Common Core supporters who might be worried about what those discontinued tests might reveal.

How BAD for our kids.

The demise of important public school tests in the past two years has really gotten my attention. Very simply, Kentucky’s assessment trend lines have been vanishing left and right at precisely the time we badly need such trends to assess what Common Core is really accomplishing.

Test demise problems started two years ago when the ACT, Inc. – the folks who create the ACT college entrance test – summarily decided to discontinue two “junior” ACT tests called EXPLORE and PLAN. Kentucky had used both since the 2006-07 school year to gauge progress of its eighth and tenth grade students, respectively. This completely chopped off trend lines Kentucky had assembled from 2006-07 all the way to the last year of EXPLORE and PLAN testing in 2014-15.

Kentucky lost more than trend lines. Kentucky also lost EXPLORE and PLAN data from its Unbridled Learning school accountability program. Until 2016, both tests had been part of the gauges of student performance in Unbridled Learning.

ACT told us that they dropped EXPLORE and PLAN to concentrate on their new Aspire tests, which serve the same (and other) grades and which were specifically designed to be Common Core aligned. Aspire, we also learned, is actually created by a new, for-profit company ACT had jointly created with the British-owned Pearson Publishers. Until this event, ACT had always been a non-profit.

Now, here are some problems with this. Common Core is supposed to be targeted at getting kids ready for college and careers. But, EXPLORE and PLAN already were highly valid college readiness assessments leveled to show if students were on track as of the eighth or tenth grade. Why would college readiness tests need to be replaced if Common Core is supposed to be about such readiness? Shouldn’t ACT have just added more tests for other grades not covered by EXPLORE and PLAN?

On the other hand, if the Common Core really is a recipe for a watered down curriculum, which many critics allege, then having EXPLORE and PLAN around to generate different scores from Aspire might have proved embarrassing for Common Core fans – and for ACT, Inc. and Pearson, too.

Bottom line: whether for marketing purposes or to prevent embarrassment to the new Aspire tests, the well-established EXPLORE and PLAN, developed by the non-profit ACT to show real college readiness, got the axe in favor of for-profit tests of unknown quality.

And, vital trend lines to judge just what Kentucky is really getting from Common Core went the same way.

But, it gets worse.

ACT, Inc. wasn’t done with its test chopping. Kentuckians recently learned that ACT no longer offers its COMPASS college placement test following the close of the 2015-16 school term. COMPASS was another test with a considerable trend line nationally. It also was part of Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning system since the 2011-12 school term, used to provide an alternate determination of college readiness for students who didn’t score high enough on the ACT.

Thanks to ACT, Inc., Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning trends really got messed up – right at the time we really could use them to evaluate what Common Core is accomplishing.

BUT, IT GETS EVEN WORSE!

This time, the US Government is responsible.

As part of its testing program, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has conducted its “Long Term Trend” assessments (LTT) since the 1970s. This is the only long-running assessment program in the US that allows us to really see how educational performance has trended over an extensive period of time for a valid random sample of students (neither the ACT nor the SAT can provide this).

While the only results returned are for a nationwide sample of students, with virtually all states currently using the Common Core, NAEP LTT results could be valuable.

But, that won’t happen anytime soon.

Education Week reports the National Assessment Governing Board (NAGB) is only talking about – maybe – administering NAEP LTT again around 2024.

For sure, not administering the NAEP LTT in 2016 when it has generally been administered about every four years, or less for decades (Longest gap: a 5-year lag from 1999 to 2004), is noteworthy, in a very negative sense. This assessment could shed valuable light on how Common Core is performing. Instead yet another important trend line is cut.

recent-years-of-naep-ltt-administration

Keep in mind that the nation’s K to 12 education community was rocked about a year ago when the 2015 Main NAEP state results came out and showed, for the first time in recent history, that math scores had declined as Common Core was settling in across the country. Could similar, negative results have been found in a 2016 NAEP LTT?

And, could a 2016 NAEP LTT have raised concerns about the rapid rise in high school graduation rates across the nation? What if the Age 17 NAEP LTT scores for reading and math remained stagnated or even entered a decline?

ACT is a private company, so other than national leaders using their bully pulpit, there is probably no way to recover EXPLORE, PLAN or COMPASS. But, the US Government owns the NAEP LTT. Funding needs to be found, really fast, so a NAEP LTT can be run as soon as possible. Our kids deserve nothing less.

Tech Note: NAEP LTT Administration Years available here.

Comments

  1. Deborah Guebert says:

    Excellent analysis and conclusions regarding the subversive nature of the Common Core “state standards”, and the attempt to conceal their tragic effects on real learning.

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