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For as many years as I have been the principal at Morris Area High School, we have given the EXPLORE test to our 8th grade students. The EXPLORE® program is designed to help eighth graders explore a broad range of options for their future. It prepares students not only for their high school coursework but for their post-high school choices as well. I would like to take some time to explain to all readers, and especially to the parents of 8th grade students, what the EXPLORE test is and why we give it to our 8th graders.

ACT data show that fewer than two in 10 eighth graders are on target to be ready for college-level work by the time they graduate from high school (Education Digest, 2009, p. 1). This means that more than eight of 10 8th-grade students do not have the knowledge and skills they need to enter high school and succeed there. Not surprisingly, students who are not prepared for high school are less likely than other students to be prepared for college and careers by the time they graduate from high school (Education Digest p. 2). In recent years, there has been heightened awareness of the importance of early childhood education and high school as intervention points in the educational lives of America's children. Less attention, it seems, has been paid to the importance of the upper elementary grades and middle school and the role they must play in the preparation of students for life after high school. Moreover, ACT research shows that, under current conditions, the level of academic achievement that students attain by 8th grade has a larger impact on their college and career readiness by the time they graduate from high school than anything that happens academically in high school (Education Digest p. 2).

It seems that students' academic readiness for college and careers can be improved when students develop behaviors in the upper elementary grades and in middle school that are known to contribute to successful academic performance. The implication is clear: "if we want not merely to improve but to maximize the college and career readiness of U.S. students, we need to intervene not only during high school but before high school, in the upper elementary grades and in middle school" (p. 2). ACT claims that "the eighth-grade achievement (as measured by the four EXPLORE scores in English, Mathematics, Reading, and Science) displays a stronger relationship with college and career readiness than does any other factor" (p. 3). "Making sure that all eighth-grade students have attained the knowledge and skills that put them on target to becoming ready for college and career is the single most important step that can be taken to improve their college and career readiness" (p. 6).

The results of the EXPLORE tests are shared with our 8th grade teachers, much like the MCA data, and the teachers use this information to inform their instruction in the classroom. Next week I will provide information about the PLAN test that is given to all of our 10th grade students.

Upcoming Events

October 17: School Board Meeting

October 20-21: MEA (No School)

October 27: FLEX at 7-12 building