Eighth graders score well, sophomores slump on test

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By Meaghan Downs

Anderson County school administrators have cause for celebration, as well as room for improvement, when it comes to examining the school district’s EXPLORE and PLAN test results.
The Kentucky Department of Education recently released public school district scores for the pre-ACT assessments EXPLORE and PLAN, both tests used to predict the college and career-readiness of eighth and 10th graders.
Every September, Kentucky eighth graders take the EXPLORE test, a curriculum-based exam that gives early indicators of college and career readiness, testing students on content areas such as English, math, reading and science.   
At the same time, high school 10th graders complete the PLAN test, an exam used to predict a student’s future success on the ACT, a college entrance test taken by every Kentucky junior public high school student.
Anderson County eighth graders exceeded EXPLORE benchmarks in every subject area for the 2012-2013 school year, increasing its English score by a whopping 15 percent from last year.
About 65.6 percent of Anderson County eighth graders met the test’s English benchmark score of 13.
Despite the district’s gains in the EXPLORE test, Anderson County eighth graders do lag a few percentage points behind the state’s average scores for Kentucky eighth graders meeting or exceeding benchmarks.
“We recognize we’re making some growth, but certainly we want to be leaders,” Instructional Supervisor Sharon Jackman said when asked about the district’s scores compared to the state’s average. “We don’t want to be behind.”     
Test results for this year’s sophomore class are a little more mixed.
In English and math, 10th graders increased their PLAN scores by 10.1 percent and 3.6 percent, respectively. A total of 70.2 percent of 10th graders met benchmarks for English, the highest score for Anderson County since 2006.
But in meeting reading benchmarks, sophomore scores dropped by 0.8 percent from 2011. The average student score for reading, however, increased by 0.2 points.
Only about one in five sophomores met PLAN benchmarks for science, a decrease of 3 percent from last year. Average student scores for science in the district also decreased slightly by one-tenth of a point.  
Jackman said she was “elated” with the sophomores’ jump in meeting English benchmarks and their improved composite score, which, according to Jackman, put the high school in the top 13 percent in the state.   
But the district will be pinpointing those students who didn’t fare as well on the science portion.
“We want to be competitive and make sure our students are performing well in science,” Jackman said.     
Both the EXPLORE and PLAN tests are heavily incorporated in the state’s Unbridled Learning accountability model, which replaced the national assessment system No Child Left Behind starting in the 2011-2012 school year.
EXPLORE results for the district’s middle school students are measured as part of overall state accountability for college and career-readiness.
At the high school level, the state measures the yearly growth of students’ performance on the PLAN test to their performance on the ACT, basing individual percentile rankings on improvement in reading and math results.
The PLAN test also figures into the high school’s overall achievement for the district’s accountability.
“The PLAN is important to us because there’s one piece in the PLAN on the English test, the language and mechanics, that goes to our accountability,” Jackman said.

How did our eighth graders do?
Average score (0-25): 14.6
National norm: 14.7
Total: 65.6 percent met benchmarks
Increase: 15 percent higher
Average score (0-25): 15.2
National norm: 15.5
Total: 30.6 percent met benchmarks
Increase: 3.8 percent higher
Average score (0-25): 14.3
National norm: 14.6
Total: 39.5 percent met benchmarks
Increase: 5.7 percent
Average score (0-25): 16.6
National norm: 16.6
Total: 16.5 percent met benchmarks
Increase: 6.5 percent higher
Composite score (0-25)
Anderson County: 15.3
State: 15.4
National: 15.5

How did our sophomores do?
Average score (0-32): 16.4
National norm: 16.2
Total: 70.2 percent met benchmarks
Increase: 10.1 percent higher
Average score (0-32): 17.2
National norm: 17.6
Total: 29.2 percent met benchmarks
Increase: 3.6 percent higher
Average score (0-32): 16.6
National norm: 16.7
Total: 41.6 percent met benchmarks
Decrease: 0.8 percent lower
Average score (0-32): 18.0
National norm: 17.2
Total: 20.8 percent met benchmarks
Decrease: 3 percent lower
Composite (0-32)
Anderson County: 17.2
State: 17.3
National norm: 17.2