When the first test scores from the new Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) tests are released this week, they are expected to show lower short-term proficiency rates than seen previously on the Kentucky Core Content Tests (KCCT).
Senate Bill 1, passed by legislators in 2009, did away with the former Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS), which was based on student proficiency, and replaced it with the new Unbridled Learning assessment and accountability system that focuses on college and career readiness and success after high school.
Kentucky Department of Education officials are warning people not to panic about the scores because the test scores from the new assessment and accountability system are focused on the broader idea of college and career readiness — not just proficiency.
Officials warn that because of the state’s adoption of the Common Core State Standards and the new, more rigorous K-PREP assessments tied to those standards, school districts across the state can expect anywhere from a 10- to 40-point drop in the proficiency rates.
Clark County Superintendent Elaine Farris said the district has sent letters to parents notifying them of the upcoming results and explaining the new testing system.
Farris also said the results from the new tests can’t be compared to previous results, since the state is assessing students on a different standard based on college and career readiness where the old system’s standards were based on basic proficiency in math and reading.
“The thing we need to stress is that it is a brand new system. It’s nothing like it was under CATS, so you can’t compare apples to oranges,” Farris said. “Students were still tested in the same five categories — math, reading, social studies, science and writing — the same as the old tests, but the standards are higher and the tests are more rigorous in the new system.”
The Unbridled Learning assessment and accountability system is designed to provide in-depth information about the performance of students, schools, districts and the state as a whole.
The system has five main components:
— Achievement: how students perform on state tests. As in the past, elementary and middle school students’ scores will be labeled as novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished. Kentucky’s goal is 100 percent proficiency for all students. High school achievement will be based on end-of-course exams and on-demand writing.
— Gap: how students who traditionally under-perform are progressing compared to their peers. Schools will compare test results for African American, Hispanic, Native American, special education, low income and limited English proficiency students, combined into one gap group, to results for other students not in those categories.
— Growth: how all students are making progress. A statistical program will measure how students’ scores are improving from one year to the next.
— College/Career Readiness: how well schools and districts are preparing students for life after high school. Schools and district must provide information about how many students are ready for colleger and/or careers, based on test scores and certifications earned.
— Graduation Rate: how many students are graduating on time. Schools and districts wil report how many students graduate with four years of high school.
Each of the five main areas will account for a specific percentage of a school’s score.
For elementary schools, achievement and gap will account for 30 percent of the score, while growth makes up the remaining 40 percent of the score. Achievement, gap and growth each account for 28 percent of the middle school’s score, with college and career readiness accounting for 16 percent. Each of the five areas are worth 20 percent of the high school score.
Points from each of the areas will be weighted and added together for an overall score from 0-100, then rank-ordered and placed into percentiles.
One point is awarded for each percent of students scoring proficient or distinguished, one-half point is awarded for each percent of students scoring apprentice, and no points are awarded for novice students.
To encourage continuous improvement, each school and district will have an annual goal to reach — annual measurable objective )AMO) — based on how much improvement is needed to reach the ultimate goal of 100. Schools and districts will also have goals to reach in each of the five categories.
Overall school scores are ranked by level and will fall into one of three main classifications based on where they are ranked. Those rankings include:
— Distinguished: the top 10 percent of districts or schools from a particular level (90th percentile)
— Proficient: in the top 30 percent of districts or schools from a particular level (70th percentile)
— Needs improvement:; schools and districts falling outside of the proficient or distinguished categories and not meeting their AMO’s (69th percentile or below).
Farris said she thinks the new assessment and accountability system is a big improvement over CATS.
“Superintendents have always asked for more data we could look at. We wanted to know about achievement, we wanted to know about growth, we wanted to know about closing the gap. Now all of it is there,” Farris said. “It is cutting edge and it is going to do for us what we asked. We have asked for it to be norm reference and criterion referenced and it is. So, we are getting exactly what we asked for.”
This year’s scores will be used as a baseline for future scores to be compared with, and though the test scores can’t be compared to last year’s, Farris said some of the data could still be used to calculate student progress.
“We'll have the individual student data which we will be able to pull and see how they did on specific content, whether they mastered that content or whether there was a deficiency in that content area,” Farris said. “We will be able to make decisions on that because we will still be able to see if they were proficient in say, reading complex texts. We will also be able to look at that data and see where we rank across the state. So it is still very useful information.”
As part of the new Common Core Standards implemented last year, the district does mastery checks, Farris said. Several times a semester, students are tested on the content that has been covered in classes up to that point, to see if they have mastered that content, which they will be tested on during the end-of-course assessments in May.
“We break it down into units by the content that has been taught so we know what they know at that point in the semester. You can’t wait until the end of the year, so we assess along the way,” Farris said.
Farris said that along with the letter sent out last week, the district has printed a booklet that will be sent home with each student this week that explains the new assessment system in more detail.
Contact Bob Flynn at email@example.com.