Kentucky results: Common Core standards don’t enhance college readiness

A lot of eyes are on Kentucky these days.  Mostly because the state implemented Common Core standards before other states. Hence, what happens – or doesn’t happen — in Kentucky may be harbinger of things to come elsewhere as well.

So when Richard Innes of the Bluegrass Institute blogged earlier this week on Truth in American Education’s web site about Kentucky’s disappointing test scores you can bet the article drew interest.

Innes raises the $64,000 question: Does common core improve college readiness in Kentucky?

If it does, shouldn’t there be a noticeable uptick in college readiness scores?

That’s not what Innes found.

Using test results from Kentucky EXPLORE State Trends 2015  PLAN State Trends 2015 and PLAN assessments — tests designed to give a good indication if students in eighth or tenth grade will eventually be college ready — Innes writes:

The 2014-15 school year EXPLORE test results for Common Core subjects of English, math and reading are all uniformly lower than in several previous years.  For example: English has been in steady decline for the past two years, Reading performance is notably lower now than just last year and actually is also lower than results for all but one year since 2009-10 as well.

Math performance also dropped from 2013-14 and with only one exception, the 2014-15 math Benchmark performance is worse than the  performance in any of the previous five years.

These decays in performance in Common Core subjects raise concerns about the true functioning of Common Core in the Bluegrass State. The latest scores from the 2014-15 term are for the fourth year of full Common Core operation in Kentucky and the state’s education program should be stabilizing. We should not see such decay on a true college readiness test if Common Core is really working in Kentucky. However the graph above indicates that at the eighth grade level, at least, Common Core in Kentucky has a problem.

Things only look slightly better for Common Core in the PLAN results. While math has shown some improvement, both English and reading scores also decayed in the 2014-15 school term

Though Innes doesn’t analyze ACT scores, I took a quick peek at Kentucky’s scores. If Common Core standards are positively impacting students, wouldn’t we expect scores would start to rise?  Kentucky’s composite score increased half a point in the last four years. Subject scores improved modestly varying from increases of two-tenths to four tenths of a percentage point.  Also noteworthy is the percentage of students who met all four college readiness benchmarks. In the last four years the percentage increased from 16 to 19 percent. Percentages in English, mathematics and science all increased slightly but the percentage for Reading declined over the last four years.

These scores while they signify modest improvements, hardly reflect the uptick that Common Core advocates said the standards would deliver.

It’s difficult to get a reading on the same impacts in North Carolina, since North Carolina only required 100 percent of students to take the ACT exam in 2013, at the same time Common Core standards were going into the classroom.

If Kentucky is leading the way on Common Core, initial results don’t look good.