Friday, July 29, 2011

Slicing ACT scores three ways

1.  To be counted as college-and-career-ready by the Kentucky Department of Education, high school students will need ACT scores of 18 in English, 19 in mathematics, and 20 in reading.   Those are the scores that will count under the state's new accountability rules that will be applied to scores for 2011-12.   The new Kentucky Board of Education regulation on that is not yet final, but it's far enough along to treat those rules as about to be come official.
1a.  To avoid developmental courses,  students need those same scores when they enroll in public community colleges or universities.   With those scores, they can start their college career taking classes that can earn credits toward graduation, saving time, money and work on the way to their degree.  For Kentucky public higher education, those scores the "systemwide standard" set in Council for Postsecondary Education regulation.
2.  To be admitted to some colleges and universities, students will need higher scores than that. For example, University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville expect higher performance.  Students should check the websites of schools they may want to attend.

3.  To meet college-readiness benchmarks identified by ACT, Inc., students need an 18 in English, a 22 in mathematics, a 21 in reading, and a 24 in science.  Those results show scores that give students a 75% chance of earning a C and a 50% chance of a B in selected entry-level college courses, based on combining results from a variety of schools.

Special thanks to my colleague, Robyn Oatley, for alerting me to confusion about these different uses of ACT results.  Robyn's great work for ReadyKentucky is starting lots of important conversations!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Powerful new science framework

The long-awaited Framework for K-12 Science Education: Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and Core Ideas has arrived, providing the starting point for science standards that can be shared by multiple states.

As a sample of  the exciting clarity of the document, here are the questions that structure the full section on Physical Sciences:

Core Idea PS1. How can one explain the structure, properties, and interactions of matter?
PS1.A. How do particles combine to form the variety of substances one observes?
PS1.B. How do substances combine or change (react) to make new substances? How does one characterize and explain these reactions and make predictions about them?
PS1.C. What forces hold nuclei together and mediate nuclear processes?

Core Idea PS2. How can one explain and predict interactions between objects and within systems?
PS2.A. How can one predict an object’s continued motion, changes in motion, or stability?
PS2.B. What underlying forces explain the variety of interactions observed?
PS2.C. Why are some physical systems more stable than others?

Core Idea PS3. How is energy transferred and conserved?
PS3.A. What is energy?
PS3.B. What is meant by conservation of energy? How is energy transferred between objects or systems?
PS3.C. How are forces related to energy?
PS3.D. How do food and fuel provide energy?

Core Idea PS4. How are waves used to transfer energy and information?
PS4.A. What are the characteristic properties and behaviors of waves?
PS4.B. What is light? How can one explain the varied effects that involve light? What other forms of electromagnetic radiation are there?
PS4C. How are instruments that transmit and detect waves used to extend human senses

The complete Framework addresses three major dimensions: Scientific and Engineering Practices, Crosscutting Concepts, and  Disciplinary Core Ideas, with that last divided into a Physical Science section that sets the questions above and similar sections for Life Sciences, Earth and Space Sciences, and Engineering and Technology. 

The plan is for a new team to start work (potentially quite rapid work) to convert the Framework into standards states can adopt if they want to be part of the common approach.  

Plus, they're offering a new "embed it in your blog" option for sharing the report.  You can download a traditional PDF, or you can try out the link below for more details: 

Sunday, July 10, 2011

An end to the lost, stolen, or strayed?

Something's changed.  Here's the picture, and then I'll explain.
For years, some Kentucky students seemed to disappear after middle school. I'd take the count of students who showed up for eighth grade testing and four years later I'd add up the count of graduates and dropouts from that class--and I'd come up near 3,000 students short.   Above, that mystery number is the final, darkest portion of the bar for each graduation year

Not this year.  This year, fewer than 500 students seem to have gone missing. 

In the graph above, I took graduates directly from the Department's reported number of graduates for each year.  I calculated dropouts by taking the 12th grade dropout count for that year, the 11th grade count for the year before, and 10th and 9th from the years before that.  Then I combined those two numbers and subtracted them from the students who participated in state testing four years back. The original eighth grade counts are shown below.

At a guess, the added accuracy is coming from the improved student information system that moved into full implementation two years ago, designed to track students individually from year to year and from school to school across the state.

Overall, though, it looks like a good sign: it looks as though we're getting closer to counting the students who don't collect diplomas accurately, and like we're also getting better at getting many of them through to high school graduation.

Source note: graduation and dropout numbers came from the Kentucky Department of Education's Nonacademic Indicators briefing, while testing counts came from the 2006 Kentucky Performance Report.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Testing the Common Core: One State Group Simplifies

Two groups of states are working on new assessments of the Common Core State Standards, hoping to be able to leverage their shared commitment and $350 million in federal stimulus money into significantly better ways to measure student performance.

Recently, the PARCC consortium made some practical choices about what it can really pull off:
PARCC’s original proposal featured a “through-course” design, in which tests would be given after teachers completed one-quarter, one-half, three-quarters, and 90 percent of instruction. Some of those tests were to be in the form of essays and performance tasks, and others were to be quick-turnaround, computer-based exams. All four required components were to be combined into one end-of-year summative score, which states would use for accountability required by the No Child Left Behind Act.
A fifth element, a test of students’ speaking and listening skills, was to be given after three-quarters of instruction but not included in the summative score.
At a June 24 meeting, however, the 15 states that make up PARCC’s governing board reduced the number of components in the summative score to two in each subject—one computer-based test and one exam of essays and performance tasks—and placed them close to the end of the school year.
Roughly, it sounds like the choice was between a superb design very few would buy and a good one at a cost more users could manage--and like the choice may have been a good one.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Some P-12 funding losses (SEEK isn't everything)

I've been looking at patterns in state funding beyond the big main SEEK funding formula, preparing for a discussion with Kentucky School Boards Association members. Here are six slides from my presentation--and every one of them made me say ouch!

Correction to mysterious error

In yesterday's post, the mathematics puzzle should have been "how many descendants one mama cat could have in 18 months."  My apologies to anyone who struggled to figure out what was interesting about "how many in one 1 months."

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Early results from the Gates investments: Learners engage!

The literacy and math strategies supported by the Gates Foundation do an amazing job of getting learners to engage.  Students bring the level of energy they often bring to sports, music, video games, and other activities they value--but don't always bring to their classwork.

I've been hearing stories for a while from Kentucky educators.  There's one about students stopping the principal to say they loved the new way their math classes had been working--and were worried that the teacher was going back to the old pattern.  There's another about students stopping their science teacher a month after completing a module on health hazards from cell phones, because they'd found new information on the topic.

In my recent travels, I've picked up a few more.

In Pennsylvania, an art teacher has been using the literacy approach, but reports ruefully that on the last day of school, her students begged for permission to leave her room and go back to science class: they hadn't finished responding to that teacher's literacy teaching task and didn't want to end the year without having another chance to improve their work.

In Colorado, Ann Shannon was invited to explain the mathematics strategy to potential partner districts there, and she decided to show rather than tell.  She put a formative assessment lesson out on every table in a full ballroom, and in just a couple of minutes had the entire place abuzz with adults trying to figure out how many descendants one mama cat could have in 1 months.  (Completely addictive stuff: I spent my first 90 minutes on the plane home working out my own answer.)

My working theory is that the work learners are doing simply engages at the level adolescent and learners have wanted all along.  They don't want to be spoon-fed: they want to wrestle challenges worth wrestling, and when they get the chance to do that, they turn out to have the strength to win major learning victories over and over again.

Incredible disappearing blogger

As I reappear, I want to start by apologizing for the long pause since my last post.  I've been off on wonderful adventures, mainly focused on helping other states learn from the great work Kentucky teachers and the Prichard Committee have been doing with the literacy and math initiatives I've discussed often over the last year, including here and here.  My ports-of-call in the last month have included Palo Alto, Seattle, Denver, and New Orleans--and I'm heading to Atlanta Monday. It's all great work, but it's interfering badly with PrichBlog posting!  Tonight, I'm back.