New Definition of College Ready?

Below is an article from the Austin-American Statesman. This article deals with the Texas Education Agency’s possible new definition of college ready. While I have encouraged our lawmakers to insist on a common definition of college ready, I did not expect TEA to make the claim that students that score “Satisfactory” on the new end of course tests would now be considered college ready. Previously, TEA had stated that students that scored at the “Advanced” level on the end of course tests were considered college ready.

I am not going to rush to judgement on this change. At the same time, there are many questions that come to my mind: Is the passing standard for scoring “Satisfactory” being raised? If a student scores “Satisfactory” on the end of course tests, is that going to correspond to score on the SAT or ACT that shows a student is college ready? Does that mean that a student that just barely scores in the “Satisfactory” range is college ready, or is there going to be some type of scaling used? As always, when I receive further information on this topic, I will pass that on to you.

By Kate Alexander

                                    American-Statesman Staff

The Texas Education Agency is recommending lowering the threshold for which students it deems “college ready,” a move that somecalled a retreat from the high academic standards laid out in state law.

Gloria Zyskowski, the agency’s director of student assessment, testified at the ongoing school finance trial Monday that the students who meet the “satisfactory” or passing standard on the state’s standardized tests should be considered college ready.

Previously, the agency had said the “advanced” standard on the end-of-course tests amounted to college readiness. Last spring, only 3 percent of the ninth-graders who took the English I exam achieved the advanced standard, though that test is calibrated to demonstrate whether the student is ready for the next course rather than college.

The definition of “college ready” matters because the students who meet that standard do not have to take a placement exam before starting college. That test establishes whether the student needs remediation.

The state’s commissioners overseeing higher education and public schools must agree on the definition. Both agencies said negotiations were ongoing.

David Thompson, a lawyer for one of the four school district groups suing the state, said Zyskowski had dropped a “bombshell” with her disclosure, which had not been told to school districts.

“You can make it look like not as many kids need remediation just by lowering your standards,” Thompson said in an interview. “It doesn’t change what kids really need.”

Drew Scheberle, vice president of education for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce, agreed in an interview.

“The passing standard and the college readiness standard should not be the same thing,” Scheberle said. “College readiness ought to mean college readiness.”

Zyskowski said the definition has been evolving, but she denied that it was set lower based on the performance on the first administration of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness last spring.

The satisfactory standard means that a student is sufficiently prepared for college but might need some remediation. Thompson noted that the law states explicitly that college readiness means a student is prepared for an entry-level course without remediation.

The school districts are arguing that the Legislature has failed to provide adequate resources for schools to bring students up to the more rigorous college-ready standards. The state maintains it’s the job of the school districts, not the state, to meet those standards.

Assistant Attorney General Nichole Bunker-Henderson walked Zyskowski through the state’s different testing iterations over the years and emphasized that the rigor has been steadily increasing.

Bunker-Henderson showed a sample question from the 1982 exit-level test and asked how it would compare to questions today.

“I don’t know that we would have an item that would be quite this simple even on the third grade test,” Zyskowski said.

Zyskowski testified that student performance on the TAKS, the precursor to STAAR, had improved each year and the achievement gap between student groups had narrowed.

Asked if STAAR performance will follow that trajectory, Zyskowsi said: “The expectation is the same pattern would prevail.”

Zyskowski, who once said at a conference that STAAR would be “really, really hard,” denied that the passing standards were set too high.


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