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Shelby County Public Schools came away with mixed results in the 2011-12 EXPLORE and PLAN test results released by the state on Tuesday.
EXPLORE tests are given to eighth-grade students and PLAN to sophomores, and the results are used to help gauge college and career readiness. The tests are put together by ACT, Inc., the same company that administers the ACT test, which is used as an entrance measure for college.
Shelby County High School students saw the biggest improvement in the county over last year, with improvements in every area of the EXPLORE test, but only two categories of the PLAN test.
Collins saw scores remain fairly level on EXPLORE but improved in all areas except math on the PLAN test.
In comparison to the state, the district exceeds the state averages in math, reading and science but trail in English on the EXPLORE tests.
However, on the PLAN test the district still trails across the board.
"The scores were kind of flat," Chief Academic Officer/Deputy Superintendent Lisa Smith said. "We did see some growth in areas, but it was not as much as what we wanted."
Smith said the district has plans set to discuss scores with principals today, so they can "dig into the scores and see exactly where they're improving and what they need to work on."
She added that the schools are also focusing in on "intentional instruction, like making sure the teachers are writing their assessments in the same way the tests are so they can mirror that style."
EXPLORE results about equal
Both Collins and SCHS have similar average scores on the EXPLORE test, however SCHS saw the most improvement.
The average scores at SCHS are: 14.4 in English (up .9 from 2010-11), 15.4 in math (up .4), 14.5 in reading (.5) and 16.8 (up .7) in science.
Collins average scores and comparison to last year are: 14.1 in English (the same), 15.4 in math (down .1), 14.7 in reading (up .2) and 16.5 in science (down .4).
"Shelby County saw some significant gain," she said. "Anytime you can move the average score by three-tenths to a half of a point, that's a big move."
SCHS exceeds the average state scores in each category, but Collins fails to meet the state average in math.
ACT, Inc. also calculates out benchmark scores to show that students are on the path to college and career readiness. Both schools far exceed the benchmark for English (13), but neither school nor the state meet the benchmarks for math (17), reading (15) or science (20).
At SCHS, the percentage of students meeting the benchmarks improved in every category and exceed the state percentage of students in all categories except reading, where the schools is .1 percent lower than the state average. The percentage of students achieving benchmark scores at SCHS are: English 65.1 percent, math 31.5 percent, reading 42.1 percent and science 18.3 percent.
At Collins, the percentage of students reaching the benchmark scores dropped in three of the four categories. Those numbers for Collins are: English 56.9 percent, math 30.1 percent, reading 45.2 percent and science 14.6 percent.
PLAN shows growth for Collins
Collins showed greater improvement in sophomore students from the 2010-11 school year on the PLAN test, improving in three of four areas, while SHCS improved in just two.
The average scores at Collins with comparisons to 2010-11 are: English 15.7 (up .8), math 16.4 (down .1), reading 16.6 (up.2) and science 17.9 (up .6).
At SCHS the scores and comparisons are: English 16.0 (up .8), math 16.4 (down .6), reading 16.2 (down .2) and science 17.8 (up .6).
The ACT set benchmarks for college and career readiness on the PLAN test are: English 15, math 19, reading 17 and science 21.
Again the district fails to meet the benchmarks in math, reading and science.
Both schools also failed to exceed the state average in any category, although Collins does meet the average state score in reading and science.
At both schools the percentage of students meeting the benchmark scores increased in English and science but decreased in math and reading.
At Collins 61.7 percent met the English benchmark, 20.2 percent in math, 44 percent in reading and 17.7 in science.
At SCHS 64.4 percent met the benchmark in English, 20.8 in math, 39.4 in reading and 18.2 in science.
Smith said the changes in the common core standards, which are now nationally aligned with college readiness standards, would help students reach these benchmarks.
"I think we'll start to see more and more improvement," she said. "Students are going to be better prepared for these tests. When we were teaching to the [the old Kentucky standards], I don't know that they were aligned with college readiness like these tests are."
Starting next week the district will give the EXPLORE and PLAN tests to students in seventh and ninth grades, a year ahead of the statewide assessment to gauge where they are. This will be the first time the tests have been given district-wide to the younger students.
"Some schools have elected to do it in the past, but this is the first year that we'll do it across the district," she said. "Any time you're familiar with a test going in, it takes away some of that fear, but even more than that the data we can pull away will be more important.
"Seeing how a student did on the test and then taking that down to an instructional level and to see exactly what they need to learn and how they need to learn it goes a long way toward mastering skills."
Preparing for the tests
With the EXPLORE and PLAN tests being indicators for college and career readiness, Shelby County Public Schools wants to make sure students are prepared for those tests, given in eighth and 10th grades, respectively. So on Tuesday, EXPLORE will be given to all seventh-graders and PLAN to all ninth-graders. The schools will use these tests to prepare students in areas they most struggle. Also, giving the students an opportunity to take the test prior to the statewide test allows students to be more comfortable with the test.