Make The ACT Count
The new law created by Senate Bill 130 (SB 130) requiring all Kentucky public-school students to take the Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) tests from Act, Inc. is the most important education development in our state since passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) in 1990.
The overwhelming bipartisan support that SB 130 received during the 2006 Kentucky General Assembly demonstrates the high regard that state lawmakers and the many other supporters of this new policy have for the EPAS, which includes EXPLORE for eighth-graders, PLAN for 10th-graders, the ACT for 11th-graders and the WorkKeys jobs-skills assessment tests for students entering the workforce.
There are good reasons for this esteem, including the following:
- This policy has a good track record in other states. Colorado and Illinois, which use the ACT as a prominent factor in evaluating their students and schools, have experienced extraordinary improvements in college enrollment and preparation - especially among minorities. These improvements are summarized in this report.
- Kentucky colleges and universities have a high regard for the ACT test and use it for admissions and placement. The ACT is required for all students who wish to enter a public college or university in the Bluegrass State and is used as a factor in granting Kentucky Educational Excellence Scholarships (KEES).
- Many Kentucky school districts have effectively used EPAS tests in the past to provide excellent educational planning and diagnostic feedback for their students.
However, there are concerns among the many supporters of SB 130 about how the Kentucky Board of Education (SBE) and Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will implement the new law. The easiest way to incorporate EPAS test into the existing CATS structure is to weight them as only 5 percent of the accountability index used to evaluate schools. Such an approach would clearly be incompatible with both the spirit and letter of the new law.
Instead, this report offers some options for effectively implementing SB 130 in a way that puts prominent emphasis on the ACT, is compatible with the new law and yet keeps Kentucky's accountability system intact.