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Educators warn tougher state tests may result in lower scores

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Anderson’s report card to be released Nov. 2

By Meaghan Downs

Change is here when it comes to state testing in Kentucky.
Educators across the commonwealth, including Anderson County Superintendent Sheila Mitchell and Instructional Supervisor Sharon Jackman, are preparing for the results of the new state assessment model designed to emphasize academic rigor and college and career readiness.
Preparations include sending home letters to students’ families and showing instructional videos to staff in anticipation of the new test data Anderson County educators have never seen before.
“We are just trying to help parents understand how accountability is different this year,” Mitchell said.
The Unbridled Learning assessment model, Kentucky’s solution to the 2009 Senate Bill 1 requirements for more rigorous academic standards, called for longer, timed tests and tougher testing, which may result in lower scores, according to Mitchell and Jackman.  
Major changes to the schools’ standardized tests and test score data — which should be released to the public on Friday, Nov. 2, according to KDE — include:
 • Different scale
Schools received a score from 0-140 last year; this year districts will be rated based on a 100-point scaling system.
“Basically, when we got distinguished, we basically got extra credit,” Jackman said of the former 140-point ranking system.
• District growth cannot be compared to last year’s results
Because of the differences in standards between the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) and the new Common Score State Standards, this year’s test results will only be able to be compared directly to other districts in the state; an individual school’s growth will not be measured based on last year’s scores.
According to the Kentucky Department of Education, former state test standards were based on math and reading proficiency; the new assessment model stresses college and career readiness standards.
• Drop in points
Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday released a statement to Kentucky administrators explaining districts may see a 10 to 40 point drop in assessment scores for K-PREP and overall end-of-course exam results.
Elementary students in grades 3-8 completed K-PREP tests in reading and math last spring. Fourth and seventh grades were assessed in science and fifth and eighth graders were tested in social studies.
Writing — including editing, on-demand and mechanics tests— was assessed in grades 4-6, 8.
Each elementary, middle school and high school will be assigned an overall score based on performance in several “buckets” of student assessment, Jackman said.
For example, each individual elementary school receives a ranking based on achievement (K-PREP scores); gap (measuring proficiency for groups such as minority and special education students, free and reduced lunch recipients and English language learners) and growth (the percentile equivalent of an individual student’s ability to maintain the same level of growth).
High schools and middle schools are also evaluated based on achievement, gap and growth, but graduation rates and college and career-readiness are included in calculating overall scores.  
Instead of K-PREP standardized tests, high school students took end-of-course exams in English II, Algebra II, Biology and U.S. History, with each test accounting for 20 percent of a student’s final grade. Sophomores and juniors also completed on-demand writing tests.
Jackman said the first thing she’ll look at regarding Anderson County’s scores is the district’s performance in each “bucket” of performance.
She predicts Anderson County schools to score the highest in achievement, the category that measures performance on a variety of tests like K-PREP and end-of-course exams.
Students will be compared to other Kentucky students, and according to Mitchell, this is a good thing.
“As far as growth, I’m not sure if it’s the best measure, but as to performance, I think it’s a good measure,” Mitchell said of the peer-to-peer percentiles.

For more information on the new state assessment, visit the Kentucky School Board Association website at www.ksba.org or the Anderson County Schools district website at www.anderson.ky12.ky.us/Accountability.aspx for more information and videos on the changes for state testing.

Grading Anderson County
The district will be placed in one of several categories by the state for its overall score and ability to meet its annual measurable objective (AMO) of scoring 100:
 • Distinguished (90th percentile)
• Proficient  (70-89th percentile)
• Progressing (schools/districts meeting AMO)
• Needs improvement (remaining districts/schools)
Overall district scores will be ranked in order, but school scores will be ranked in order of level, starting with elementary.
Data released include student and school performance on the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP), high school end-of-course exams, EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT exams.
Because last spring was the first year for the new assessment model, scores will not be officially counted for or against districts until the 2012-2013 school year, administrators said.
Kentucky received a waiver from the No Child Left Behind accountability system from the Department of Education last year, and the Unbridled Learning model will replace NCLB standards and assessment.

What are they measuring?
The Next-Generation Learners portion of the state’s new accountability model uses several “buckets” of assessment for each education level for an overall score of 100:  
Elementary
• Achievement (30 percent): measures K-PREP tests in reading, math, science for grades 4 and 7, social studies for grades 5 and 8, on-demand writing for grades 4-6, 8
• Gap (30 percent): measures the proficiency of subgroups like minority students, free and reduced lunch students, special education students, etc., to maintain proficiency levels year to year for reading and math.
Each student’s score, even if he or she can be classified under multiple categories, will only be counted once toward the overall gap score, a change from last year.  
• Growth (40 percent): measures a year’s worth of growth in maintaining the same level of proficiency. Because this is the first year for the test, Jackman and Mitchell said students will be evaluated for growth based on how they compare to peers across the state. Students will be ranked by where they fall on a percentile, like bands on a timeline, Jackman said.
For children in all grade levels to receive a point or count as having growth, students had to fall in the 40th percentile or above, Mitchell said.
Middle school
• Achievement (28 percent): measures K-PREP
• Gap (28 percent): measures the proficiency of subgroups like minority students, free and reduced lunch students, special education students, etc., to maintain proficiency levels year to year for reading and math
• Growth (28 percent): measures individual percentile ranking of growth compared to peers across the state for reading and math
• College and Career-Readiness rate (16 percent): performance in meeting EXPLORE benchmarks
High school
• Achievement (20 percent): measures end-of-course exams and on-demand writing for sophomores and juniors
• Gap: measures the proficiency of subgroups like minority students, free and reduced lunch students, special education students, etc., to maintain proficiency levels year to year for end-of-course exams and on-demand writing
• Growth (20 percent): measures individual percentile ranking based on improvement from PLAN to ACT reading and math results
• College and Career-Readiness rate (20 percent): measures ability to meet state benchmarks for college ready tests such as the ACT, COMPASS or KYOTE or career-ready tests such as the ASVAB, Work Keys or KOSSA tests; students that meet both college and career-readiness components schools receive a bonus, Jackman said.
• Graduation rate (20 percent)