EXPLORE Performance in Mathematics and Science: Why are Middle School Students Unprepared for Success in Mathematics and Science?

Janet Lynne Tassell, Kerrie McDaniel, Heather Johnson, Antony Norman, Roger Pankratz, Rico Tyler


In response to the disconnect between EXPLORE and state assessment scores, and perceived needs in math and science education at the middle school level, Western Kentucky University, a state university, its three regional campus centers, four community colleges, and 30 schools in Western Kentucky developed and established an expanded partnership, entitled the Western Kentucky Math Science Partnership (MSP) addressing a documented local, state, and national challenge: improving teaching and learning in middle school to insure access of all students to rigorous high school math and science. The 2008-2010 Western Kentucky MSP grant, funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF), was an effort to understand the circumstances that impact students’ performance on the EXPLORE test and, therefore, college and career preparedness. It was an evidence-based problem-solving process to collect and analyse data directly related to declining math/science scores in participating middle school. The research question for the project was “What factors can be identified that contribute to the disparity between EXPLORE scores and the state assessment data?” Three themes were examined to study the research question: (1) leadership and planning, (2) classroom instruction, and (3) the assessment of higher-order thinking skills and problem solving.

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