Scores from eighth-grade and 10th-grade tests released last week yielded a mixed bag of results for Jessamine County.
Average scores in each of four subject areas went down from 2010 to 2011 for the EXPLORE, given to eighth-graders in the fall; scores inched upward in each area for the PLAN, which 10th-graders take in the fall. Jessamine County’s EXPLORE composite average was 14.8, 0.4 points below the state average; the district’s PLAN average was 17.2, 0.2 above the state average.
Jimmy Adams, the district’s director of secondary schools, credited the PLAN increases to the high schools’ focus on the ACT for the past five years. The PLAN and the EXPLORE are both part of the ACT’s testing system.
“ACT will tell you if students are not doing well on EXPLORE, they’re not going to do well on PLAN or ACT, and we’re seeing those improvements on PLAN and ACT,” Adams said. “I’m not sure how to interpret that except that we’re making the effort that we need to in this area in focusing on it in high schools and middle schools.”
The high-level data are good indicators of whether the district is “on track,” Adams said, but the main use of the data from the tests is looking at individual students and planning interventions for those who don’t meet the established benchmarks. The percentage of students meeting PLAN benchmarks in 2011 increased in each area, with a major jump in science from 14.3 percent to 21.8 percent.
“We’re seeing improvement there — we need to see more,” Adams said.
A new program in place for eighth-graders is the district’s implementation of Operation Preparation, a statewide initiative that education commissioner Terry Holliday announced at a national ACT data release in Jessamine County last year. The program aims to give eighth-graders one-on-one meetings with community members who can counsel them about their future in school in and in careers.
West Jessamine Middle School had its part of the program Thursday, March 1, as 23 administrators, teachers and counselors from West High and West Middle had individual meetings with each eighth-grader to look at learning plans and interests and talk about EXPLORE results and their courses in high school.
“It was fun to be able to watch these kids interact with people that they’re going to have in class in future years, so they already get to know some of these people, and they’re also working with people that know them in middle school,” Adams said.
The PLAN and EXPLORE tests are part of a college- and career-readiness measure in Kentucky’s new Unbridled Learning accountability system, which replaced the old No Child Left Behind system after the federal government granted the state a waiver.
Adams said the change of focus from proficiency to college- and career-readiness is benefiting students.
“We’re having conversations with kids about what they’re going to do after high school, and we’re having it at a level much higher than we’ve ever had in the past,” he said.