Thursday, May 21, 2009

ACT, CPE, and bit of Frank Baum

This story takes a little telling.

In November 2004, the Council for Postsecondary Education required all public universities and KCTCS schools to place students with an ACT English score of 18 in a credit-bearing writing course, with an ACT mathematics score of 19 in guaranteeing a credit-bearing math assignment.

In November 2007, CPE amended its admissions regulation to specify that:
  • Students would need an ACT reading score of 21 as well as the 18 in English and the 19 in mathematics.
  • Students scoring below those levels would have to take either a non-credit developmental course or a credit-bearing course with "supplementary academic support, such as extra class sessions, additional labs, tutoring, and increased monitoring of students, beyond that usually associated with an entry-level course."
  • Schools would have to provide those courses in a student's first semester.
  • The new rules would go into effect in the fall of 2009.
Only, in January 2009, CPE voted to amend that regulation again to say that:
  • Students would only need a reading score of 20.
  • Students scoring below the standards could spread their special course work over two semesters.
  • The requirement for that coursework would go into effect in the fall of 2010.
And in May 2009 (tomorrow, in fact), President Bob King will present his regular report to the Council, including an update on Senate Bill 1 work that says the next step will be:
to review the current systemwide public postsecondary placement policy in English and mathematics and, working with institutional representatives and KDE, to determine whether revisions are needed in those content standards.
That raises the possibility that by the time the new placement policy goes into effect, every number, date, and timeline will have been replaced at least once, like the memorable tin woodsman Dorothy met on her way to visit the Wizard of Oz.

Is CPE heartless, to be changing the rules so often? Probably not.

Instead, the November 2007 decision may have been made without enough active discussion, meaning that too few brains contributed to figuring out what would be needed to make the changes work.

If so, I'm glad that CPE has the courage to give each element a new round of careful attention.


  1. Those numbers are not content standards as suggested in the quote. They are cut-points on a score distribution or proficiency standards. Those who confuse the two, content standards and proficiency standards, seem not to know much about other areas of testing either.

  2. CPE could have people who understand those issues working on the substance, but not have those people checking President King's exact wording. I hope it's that simple.

    If it isn't, I see another worrisome possibility.

    CPE might say that their three ACT cut-points are all the information they need to provide about students need when they enter in college. If that happened, the effort to align P-12 content standards with college readiness would be doomed from the outset. I don't think that's likely to happen, because the legislation is pretty explicit about what's needed and how it will be used.


Updates and data on Kentucky education!