As I wrote in , Community Consolidated School District 15 eighth graders – the Class of 2015 - will be taking their ACT-aligned EXPLORE high school entrance exams this Saturday.
If history repeats itself, more than a third of them will find out in a few weeks that they are not on track for college.
School administrators have known for several years now that it is the EXPLORE test – not the Illinois State Achievement Test (ISAT) – that is a more reliable predictor of a student's college readiness.
A key finding from the 2008 study, From High School to the Future: The Pathway to 20 explains the relationship between a student's composite score on the EXPLORE test and their likelihood of reaching a 20 or better on the ACT college readiness exam. It states that virtually no students with very low scores (15 and below) on EXPLORE make it to a 20 on the ACT. Only about 30 percent of those who score a 16 fair well on the ACT.
The report indicates that a composite score of 17 is the "tipping point" where students have a greater than 50 percent chance of reaching ACT benchmarks. With very high EXPLORE scores (19 and above), virtually all students make it to benchmarks or above on the ACT.
For the past three years, more than 42 percent of District 15 students have consistently scored a 16 or less on their eighth grade EXPLORE exam. Of those, approximately 30 percent had very low scores of 15 and below.
Which Township High School District 211 schools – Fremd or Palatine – did these students enter their freshmen year? How many of them were not on the path to college when they graduated from District 15?
Data from the EXPLORE test taken by the Classes of 2012, 2013 and 2014 was obtained through a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). These students represent current juniors, sophomores and freshmen at Fremd and Palatine High Schools. They would have taken their EXPLORE test during the winter of eighth grade.
Results for the Class of 2014 show that 221 students, or about 37.4 percent of District 15 students headed to Palatine High School scored 15 0r less. Fremd had 147 students, or about 22.7 percent of incoming freshman who had scored 15 or less.
As eighth graders, more than 92 percent scored in the "Meets or Exceeds" category for both Reading and math on the ISATs. However as recent studies have shown, only by scoring well into the "Exceeds" category of the ISATs can a student have a reasonable chance of achieving the ACT benchmarks.
For the Class of 2014, only 280 students, about 21.2 percent, made it into the "Exceeds" category for Reading while 620 students, about 46.2 percent, did for math.
Overall, the EXPLORE data shows that for every District 15 student who scores a 19 or better, there are two who do not – and one has a lot of "catching up" to do in a short period of time.
What can District 15 do to improve student outcomes on the EXPLORE test?
Can struggling students be identified early in elementary school? Should "Strengthening the Curriculum" be a priority for our school district?
The Classes of 2016 and beyond are waiting for the answers.
Next week: Part III - How D211 is helping students get ready