Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2012

First Bell: Even more on ACT scores; new assessments in the works after No Child Left Behind waiver

August 23, 2012


News, et cetera, from schools around Douglas County:

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• The institution that puts out the ACT college entrance exam released the average composite scores for the country today. The national average remained 22.1 out of 36. Andy Hyland has more about the national stats and what they mean in terms of what's called college readiness. Sneak peek: The numbers aren't very good.

Lawrence's public schools' average score was a little lower than last year's, but participation was up. I put together a chart that compares Lawrence High School and Free State High School. For the 2012 school year, the Firebirds beat out the Chesty Lions 23.8 to 22.6. That chart is at the bottom; roll over the bars for specific scores over the years.

• The ACT is split up into sections of English, reading, math and science. Thanks to information provided by Julie Boyle, you can see that Lawrence High's averages in these categories were: English, 21.5; math, 22.2; reading, 23.7; and science, 22.4. Free State's were: English, 23.8; math, 23.2; reading, 24.5; and science, 23.1. All these average scores are higher than the national averages for each section.

• I spoke with Kristen Magette at Eudora schools today, and she pointed to me to a good resource for news about them — their Facebook page. On there is also a link to a newsletter with back-to-school information in their newsletter, The Card.

• Eudora's average composite ACT score, by the way, was 22.9.

• I spoke with Terry McEwen, who's in charge of assessments for the Lawrence schools, today. We talked about an interest of mine, the No Child Left Behind waiver. It's a complicated topic — and will take some time to play out. Kansas is now one of 38 states in a consortium that creating a new set of assessments that will roll out by the 2014-2015 school year. In the meantime, Kansas will still use the state assessments based on standards accepted in 2003.

McEwen said that Lawrence teachers already use some of the teaching techniques of the Common Core standards that will be assessed in the new tests. He used the analogy of skating on ice to compare the two approaches — current curriculum standards cover 500 miles but only cut an eighth of an inch deep. The Common Core approach is more like covering five miles but eight feet deep.

Make sense? It's about teaching kids critical thinking skills. The assessments will be more about explaining how the test-taker got to a particular answer than giving a rote answer.

I'll be researching these issues more, so keep an eye out for more stories.

• Anything you feel I need to learn? Email me at or give me a call at 832-6314.

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ACT scores at Lawrence high schools


bigpimpin 1 year, 8 months ago

Actually the 38 states are not part of a consortium, but rather a consortia. There are two groups that have been awarded the contracts for developing the CCSS assessments: the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium (SBAC) and the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). States can choose to belong to either consortium.

While the roll-out for these new assessments is scheduled for the 2014-15 academic year, the chances of this happening are slim in my opinion. Both consortia are behind on schedules—I predict it’s likely both will elect to take advantage of right to delay operational administration one year. However, given that other vendors are now working on developing Common Core assessments, this might light a fire under the keisters of SBAC and PARCC.

In addition to the fact the consortia are both behind in terms of their schedules, there are other significant challenges/hurdles on the path to operational administration. For one, the consortia are only funded through test development (no $ for implementation). At some point the consortia are going to start asking member states for money, and it will be then that state education chiefs will truly weigh their options. Also, when performance level descriptions and the issue of standard setting comes up, I think we'll start to see departures. Maintaining robust membership will be critical to sustainability and we WILL see large states depart the consortia and do their own thing. This will be a domino effect.

I wouldn't ever bet on these assessments becoming fully operational. At best they'll be voluntary in my opinion. Also, the consortia Kansas belongs to--SBAC--is incredibly weak and I expect it will fail. They have a decent test design, but their leadership is terrible. The bottom line is that for all the rhetoric, these tests--so far (based on what we know)--won't be much different than what we currentkly have in place. As soon as the consortia start asking for money, states will say "wait a minute....we used to spend the same amount on assessment but we had one vendor bending over backwards for our we are still spending money but aren't getting exactly what we want/need."

The Common Core Standards are well-intentioned, and they do represent an improvement. But the assessment program is destined to fail.


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