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RAISING THE BAR: More Kentucky Students Prepared for College and a Career, According to New Tests Pegged to Common Core State Standards

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“The overriding goal of the state’s public education system is to prepare students for the paths they want to take after high school, and these data show that we are making progress toward that goal.”

More than 47 percent of Kentucky’s public high school students were prepared for college and/or a career in School Year (SY) 2011–12, based on results released on November 2 from the state’s new tests, which are tied to the Common Core State Standards (CCSS). The percentage represents an increase of nine percentage points compared to the previous year. In 2010, Kentucky became the first state to adopt the CCSS in English language arts and mathematics.

“This increase, which translates to more than 4,500 students, is a direct result of Kentucky’s schools’ and districts’ focus on college and career readiness,” said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday. “The overriding goal of the state’s public education system is to prepare students for the paths they want to take after high school, and these data show that we are making progress toward that goal.”

At the same time, the results show that the state has much work left to do to meet its lofty goals. Under Kentucky’s new model, public schools and school districts receive overall scores on a scale of 0 to 100. On average, state schools received a score of 55.2; elementary schools posted an average score of 57.3, compared to 53.5 for middle schools and 54.8 for high schools. Overall, scores for elementary schools range from a low of 28.0 to a high of 85.2; middle school scores ranged from 29.3 to 91.6; and high school scores spanned 27.9 to 87.3.

Although the percentage of students considered college or career ready increased, the percentages of students scoring “proficient” or better in reading and math dropped considerably. These drops were expected given that the new tests are much more rigorous than the old tests.

According to an analysis by Education Week, 76 percent of elementary school students scored proficient or higher in reading on the old tests in SY 2010–11, compared to 48 percent under the new tests. In math, 73 percent were deemed proficient under the old test, compared to 40.4 percent under the new test. In middle school, reading proficiency levels dropped from 70 percent in SY 2010–11 to 46.8 percent in SY 2011–12; in math, they fell from 65 percent to 40.6 percent.

“We knew the scores were going to drop, but this is the right thing for our kids, our schools,” Holliday told Education Week.

The press release from the Kentucky Department of Education announcing the test results is available at http://education.ky.gov/comm/Documents/R077data.pdf.

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