A Crisis of Unprepared Freshmen

Shakira Lockett was a pretty good student in elementary, middle and high school. The Miami-Dade County native says she typically earned AS and BS in English classes.

Math was always something of a struggle for Lockett. Still, she got through her high school exit exam with a passing grade and went on to graduate from Coral Gables Senior High School in 2008.

She went straight to Miami Dade College. Then, something unexpected happened: She flunked the college placement exams in all three subjects – reading, writing and math. That didn’t mean she couldn’t attend the school; all state and community colleges in Florida have an open-door policy, which means everyone is accepted. But it did mean she had to take remedial courses before she could start college-level work.

“When they told me I had to start a Reading 2 and Reading 3 class, I was like, ‘Serious?’” Lockett said. “Because I’ve always been good at reading.”

Lockett, who is now 22, spent a year-and-a half taking remedial classes before she could start her first college-level class to count toward her degree in mass communication and journalism. The seven extra courses cost her $300 each.

Lockett found having to take remedial classes discouraging. “It makes you feel dumb,” Lockett said. “And you ask yourself, ‘Is there something wrong with me?’” (Read more.)

Via Sarah Gonzalez, McNelly Torres and Lynn Weddell, FCIR.

Posted in Community College (13-14), Secondary (9-12), Testing. Tags: , . Comments Off on A Crisis of Unprepared Freshmen

California Limits Role of Student Tests in API Scores

California’s key measure of public school quality will be redefined to lessen the impact of standardized test scores under a bill signed into law Wednesday by Gov. Jerry Brown.

The law, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), will broaden how the Academic Performance Index is calculated by limiting test scores to 60% for high schools and including graduation rates and other factors.

The 1,000-point index, which is currently based entirely on student test scores, has been criticized as an inaccurate gauge of campus quality even as it is widely used by parents to choose schools and real estate agents to sell homes.

“For years, ‘teaching to the test’ has become more than a worn cliche because 100% of the API relied on bubble tests scores in limited subject areas,” Steinberg said in a statement. “But life is not a bubble test and that system has failed our kids.”

Test scores must count for at least 60% of the API for elementary and middle schools, where alternative data are less developed.

Under the new law, the state Board of Education will work with the state superintendent of public instruction to incorporate other factors into the index, such as student readiness for college and technical training. The law specifies an increased emphasis on science and social science, which carry little weight in the current API. (Read more.)

Via Teresa Watanabe, Los Angeles Times found on Education Week.

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By the SAT Standard, Less Than Half of College-Bound Seniors Are Ready

Only 43 percent of 2012’s high-school graduates are prepared for success in college, according to a report released on Monday by the College Board, which owns the SAT.

The SAT Report on College & Career Readiness says that a majority of test takers did not achieve the college-entrance examination’s benchmark score of 1550, which the College Board suggests is indicative of college success and graduation. The SAT is scored on a 2400-point scale.

But the SAT is only one factor indicating college readiness and likelihood of completion, the College Board noted, and therefore students who score below the benchmark can still succeed in college. The strongest indicators of college success, the report says, are taking a rigorous high-school curriculum and having parents with postsecondary degrees.

Members of the high-school Class of 2012 who took the SAT represented the largest and most diverse pool in the test’s history, according to the report. Of the more than 1.66 million test takers from the Class of 2012, 45 percent identified themselves as minority students, up from 38 percent in 2008. Thirty-six percent of test takers said their parents’ highest level of education was a high-school diploma or less.

While participation has increased 6 percent since 2008, SAT scores have decreased slightly. Mean scores for critical reading are down four points, writing scores are down five points, and mathematics scores have remained stable, compared with four years ago. The overall mean for the Class of 2012 was 1498, substantially below the 1550 benchmark.

Researchers continue to debate whether the SAT reliably predicts success in college; some studies support the test’s role, while others say it is a poor indicator of future academic performance, putting low-income and minority students at a disadvantage.

Via Caitlin Peterkin, The Chronicle of Higher Ed.

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Making The Cut Colleges, State Re-Examine Placement Tests

Consider the cut score, that all-encompassing, essential number that determines the future of legions of community college students.
Score above the cut score on a standardized placement test and proceed to college-level course work, greatly enhancing the chances of eventually earning a college degree.

Earn a score below the cut line and get a ticket to one or more developmental courses, a place sometimes dubbed the Bermuda Triangle of higher education — the place where students go in, but never come out. Only a tiny percentage of students who take remedial courses ever finish college.

That high-stakes nature of placement tests employed by community colleges across the country is among the factors driving a fundamental re-examination of the exams, raising questions about whether they create a serious impediment to the college completion agenda.

An emerging body of research indicates that standardized placement tests are poor predictors of college success and that a student’s high school transcript does a far better job of telling a college where a beginning student belongs.

That hypothesis is now being tested by Long Beach City College in California, which just admitted a cohort of nearly 1,000 students whose placements were determined not by a placement test, but by their high school grades.

“I don’t think that tests are the evil here,” said college President Eloy Oakley. “The way we have used the tests are the problem. We have leaned on the placement tests almost totally to place students. I don’t think you can rely just on a test to judge a student’s capacity to succeed.” (Read more.)

Via Paul Bradley, Editor, Community College Week.

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ACT Finds Most Students Still Not Ready for College

Student performance on the ACT essentially held steady this year, with slight improvement shown in the math and science parts of the college-entrance exam.

Still, 60 percent of the class of 2012 that took the test failed to meet benchmarks in two of the four subjects tested, putting them in jeopardy of failing in their pursuit of a college degree and careers.

The Condition of College and Career Readiness 2012, released today by the Iowa City, Iowa-based nonprofit testing organization ACT Inc., includes performance information from students in the spring graduating class who took the ACT as sophomores, juniors, or seniors. This year, 1.67 million seniors or 52 percent of the U.S. graduating class took the exam.

“I was hoping with the focus [in the education community] on career and college readiness, we’d start to see a more dramatic improvement. We are still early in that,” said ACT President Jon Erickson. A greater focus on career and college standards and more attention to teacher professional development are encouraging signs, he added, but the output from a graduating class is not apparent yet.

The average composite score was 21.1—the same as it has been for the past five years. A perfect score is 36.

ACT Inc. has set “college-readiness benchmarks” in the four subjects it tests: English/language arts, reading, mathematics, and science. That is the measure needed to predict a student has a 75 percent chance of earning a C or higher or a 50 percent chance of earning a B or higher in a typical first-year college course.

In this year’s report, 25 percent of all tested high school graduates met the mark in all four subjects—the same percentage as last year. It had steadily climbed in the previous three years.

Fifteen percent of the test-takers met one subject benchmark, 17 percent met two, and 15 percent met three. Twenty-eight percent failed to meet the minimum standard in any area. <Read more.>

Via Caralee J. Adams, Education Week.

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