By Madelynn Coldiron
There’s a good reason why Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning logo is underscored with the words “College/Career Readiness for All.” While college and career readiness is measured in the accountability formula, the state’s overarching vision for education revolves around producing students who are college and/or career ready.
More specifically, though, college and career readiness is one of five legs that make up the overall accountability score of a Kentucky school, in addition to achievement, gap group performance, student growth and graduation rate. College and career readiness is measured at the middle school and high school levels – it counts as 16 percent of a middle school’s overall accountability score and 20 percent of a high school’s score. In high school, the focus is primarily on the performance of graduates.
College readiness is gauged through a battery of ACT Inc. tests that actually begin in middle school, when eighth-graders take the ACT Explore test to gauge high school readiness and help them explore options for their future. In 10th grade, students take the ACT Plan, which assesses reading, math, science and English and helps predict success on the ACT Test. All high school juniors must take the ACT Test.
A high school’s college readiness performance is measured in the percentage of its graduates who meet all three benchmarks in the ACT – if a student misses any of the three, they do not count as being college ready. The benchmarks are defined by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education as a score of 18 in English; 19 in math; and 20 in reading. If students fall short of any of these benchmarks, they may receive targeted assistance and then test in those subject areas they missed through either the ACT Compass or Kentucky Online Testing (KYOTE) systems, or retake the ACT to try to achieve college readiness status. Compass tests are college placement exams that measure reading, writing and math skills; KYOTE is the state’s version of those exams. Each of those has its own benchmarks, also set by the Council on Postsecondary Education, that students must meet to be considered college ready.
College readiness at the middle school level is based on the percentage of eighth-graders meeting ACT-set benchmarks in reading, math and English on the ACT Explore exam. However, unlike high school, it’s not an all or nothing system when it comes to meeting the benchmarks.
Students must meet both career-ready academic and career-ready technical benchmarks to be considered career-ready. The academic standard can be achieved by meeting benchmarks in either the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB) or the ACT WorkKeys, which tests applied math, locating information and reading for information. To meet the technical side, students must hit the benchmarks on a Kentucky Occupational Skills Standards Assessment test or qualify for an industry certificate.
Meeting the career-ready academic and technical benchmarks is the equivalent of meeting the ACT benchmarks. All students are required to take the ACT as juniors, but all students are not automatically eligible to take the career readiness tests. To be able to take any of those, a student must have an identified career area and have at least 2 credits in that area and be enrolled in a third course.
Students are counted only once as either college or career ready in the state’s accountability system, but a school can receive bonus points for graduates who meet college-ready benchmarks (through ACT or Compass or KYOTE) and career-ready technical benchmarks (KOSSA or industry certificates). While 1 point is assigned per college- or career-ready student, schools are further rewarded with an additional .5 point for each student who is both college and career ready.
Impacts other facets
College and career readiness also factors into two of the other accountability “legs.” Twenty percent of the growth measure is based on the progress students make in reading and math from the time they take the ACT Plan test as 10th graders to when they take the ACT in their junior year.
Indirectly, career readiness may also be given a boost through the practical living/career studies program review. Program reviews do not assess individual students, but instead focus on the quality of a school’s performance in the three program review areas. For the 2013-14 school year, program reviews count as 23 percent of a school’s achievement score.