Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Editorials

March 4, 2012

Scores too low

Tests show many high school students not ready for college

ASHLAND — The good news is that Kentucky’s 8th- and 10th-graders showed improvement on tests measuring their readiness for college, albeit only slightly.

The bad news is that unless they showed marked improvements in their test scores a high percentage of these eighth-graders and high school sophomores are going to have to take — and pass — non-credit remedial classes before they can enroll in college courses that will earn credit toward graduation. That is certain to increase both the cost and the amount of time it will take for them to earn a college degree.

The Kentucky Department of Education on Tuesday released the scores for the EXPLORE and PLAN tests taken in 2011 by tens of thousands of public school students in the state. The two tests measure English, math, reading and science. Between 2010 and 2011, scores either remained the same or showed incremental increases, the department’s figures show.

The figures show at least 60 percent of the 8th and 10th graders met goals in English — and that’s the good news. While their scores indicate that 40 percent of the students — or two out of every five — will have to take remedial classes in English in college, and even higher percentage will have to take remedial classes in math, reading and science.

Both tests were developed by ACT Inc., the company whose college entrance exam is taken by millions of high school students across the country, including Kentucky. Their ACT scores ultimately will decide which students will have to pass a remedial class before they can enroll in a college class for credit.

The remedial classes that teach what the students should have learned in high school have become a real cash cow for colleges, particularly the state’s community and technical colleges.

Since students pay the same tuition for those non-credit classes as they do other classes. the remedial classes raise needed revenue for the colleges. Since enrollment at the community and technical college is open to all high school graduates in the state, the two-year colleges attract more low-performing students than the regional universities that can limit enrollment. However, while the remedial classes help the schools play the bills, they do little to improve graduation rates, as many remedial students drop out before earning a degree or certificate.

However, the real message from the latest round of EXPLORE and PLAN tests is that the state’s high schools must do a much better job of preparing young people for college and the workforce. That means the test scores must improve by a lot. Slight improvements are not acceptable.

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