Local students score well in state assessments

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Sophomores score above state

By Dave Taylor

Trimble County High School sophomores scored well above the state average in the Kentucky Department of Education’s PLAN Assessment given last fall.
“The PLAN is the precursor to the ACT, the college admissions test used by the majority of the country and all of Kentucky,” TCHS Principal Buddy Sampson said in an email. “The PLAN test is administered to give the schools and students a better understanding of where they stand relative to the College Readiness Standards.  In short, this is THE test that helps TCHS guide students towards success on the ACT, and beyond.”
In the 2010 administration of the test, 49,827 10th-grade Kentucky students in 230 public schools took the PLAN assessment, according to a KDE news release. The benchmark scores for PLAN are: 15 percent or higher on the English Test, 19 percent or higher on the Mathematics Test, 17 percent or higher on the Reading Test and 21 percent or higher on the Science Test.
“Trimble County’s scores graded out well above state averages across the board in the state-mandated test for sophomores,” TCHS teacher Jon Graham said in a news release.
Trimble’s scores were higher than the state average in all four categories and higher than schools in all surrounding counties except Oldham. In English, Trimble scored 16.3 compared to the state average score 15.7. Trimble’s Math score was 17.5 while the state average was 16.8. In Reading, Trimble’s score of 17.5 was above the state average score of 16.4. Trimble’s Science score of 18.8 was above the 17.6 state average. Trimble’s composite score was 17.7 compared to the state composite of 16.7.
That one point can be deceiving, Sampson said. “We are a full point above state average in a 32-point test where the difference in a point is oftentimes the difference in an acceptance letter or rejection letter from a university or college.”
The percentage of Trimble sophomores meeting the benchmark in English was 68.8 percent compared to the state average 60 percent, in Math 28.6 percent compared with 25 percent statewide, in Reading 57.1 percent compared with 43 percent and in Science Trimble students were at 21.4 percent compared to the 16 percent state average.
“What you don’t see in those numbers is the fact that we are 31st out of 224 high schools in the state,” Sampson said by phone on Thursday. “That is huge!”
TCHS students have “bought in” to a focus on ACT-style test questions and increased academic rigor to better prepare students for life outside of high school, according to TCHS student Kaitlyn Brewer.
“I wanted to do my best in order to get into the best college I could,” Brewer said. “I have dreams that require a good education, and, while Trimble County may be a steppingstone to that end, it is not the end of my educational plan. I know I need more.”
TCHS sophomore Eden Lacefield gave another reason for student success. “The teachers really took their time explaining everything that we needed to succeed instead of cramming everything into just a few days,” she said. “The teachers never seemed nervous, but just seemed to know we were going to do well. I’m excited now for the actual ACT.”  
“The faculty has done a great job of turning this into an intrinsic drive for students instead of a piece of candy on a stick.  Students know the importance of an ACT score and this is proof we have a great group of students willing to work toward their own future rather than some kind of momentary reward,” Sampson said.
Guidance Counselor Bridgette Kunselman agreed, saying, “The PLAN test is important in determining how well our students retain and synthesize information on standardized tests and as a predictor of future tests like the ACT. Our kids did a great job.”
“The middle school deserves a ton of credit for those scores, especially the 8th grade team,” Sampson said. “They are obviously focusing some considerable attention on the college readiness standards, or those scores as sophomores would be only a dream.”
Administration of the EXPLORE (see separate story), PLAN and ACT assessments, which are provided by ACT, Inc., was mandated by Senate Bill 130 (codified in KRS 158.6453) in the 2006 session of the Kentucky General Assembly. The assessments will help schools focus on meeting academic standards across the entire secondary school program. Scores from the assessments will be helpful in measuring student achievement, gauging their readiness for transition and evaluating school programs. 
TCHS juniors take the ACT test March 15 at the school.
PLAN helps 10th graders build a solid foundation for future academic and career success and provides information needed to address school districts’ high-priority issues. The exam assesses four subjects (English, mathematics, reading and science) and is a predictor of success on the ACT.
“There’s a good chance we could end up in the top 25 schools on the ACT next year,” Sampson said. We’re seeing some good movement!”
Both assessments help schools pinpoint areas of weakness for individual students and school-wide curriculum and make changes to improve learning. Schools will analyze their individual results to inform decision-making.
Senate Bill 1, passed in the 2009 session of the Kentucky General Assembly, requires a high school readiness examination in 8th grade and a college readiness examination in 10th grade. EXPLORE and PLAN, respectively, will be used for these purposes.