Are Kentucky’s KPREP tests starting to inflate – Part 2?

Kentucky has completed its fourth year of testing with the Common Core State Standards aligned Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (KPREP) tests in reading and mathematics. It is time to start asking whether or not Kentucky’s new tests are showing signs of inflation.

In the Part 1 blog in this series we examined the trends in eighth grade reading from the KPREP, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and also the ACT, Inc.’s EXPLORE tests. Now, using the following graph, let’s see what the eighth grade math results indicate.


The trend in KPREP versus EXPLORE for eighth grade math is a little different from what we saw with the eighth grade reading performance. Unlike the trend for KPREP reading, which showed increased proficiency between 2011-12 and 2014-15, in KPREP math we see a flatter trend over the past three test years following a 3-point rise between 2011-12 and 2012-13. Still, between 2011-12 and 2014-15 KPREP tells us the state experienced a 2-point rise in eighth grade math proficiency.

EXPLORE shows a little less improvement over time, with a trivial 1-point rise in scores between 2011-12 and 2014-15. In fact, looking back to the 2010-11 term EXPLORE says the math performance in Kentucky has been perfectly flat.

As a result, the proficiency rate gap between EXPLORE and KPREP has increased from an already notable 11-point difference in 2011-12 to a 12-point gap in claimed proficiency rates currently.

There are a lot of students tied up in this difference in claimed success rates. In the 2014-15 school term the Kentucky School Report Card for the state shows there were 51,159 students in Kentucky’s eighth grade class. Taking 12 percent of that figure means KPREP is telling us that 6,139 more students were successful in math than the EXPLORE test indicates.

Things get worse when we look at the NAEP data. The NAEP shows a small decline in eighth grade math proficiency rates in Kentucky between 2011 and 2015 although the sampling errors in the NAEP scores (which again are on the order of plus or minus three points) are large enough that we cannot say with certainty that any performance drop truly occurred. However, NAEP certainly does not support any increase in performance between 2010-11 and 2014-15 while KPREP is claiming a small improvement.

If we repeat our NAEP interpolation exercise that we did in the Part 1 blog, in 2011-12 the interpolated NAEP proficiency rate would round to 31 percent, which exactly equals the EXPORE Benchmark Score rate, by the way. Thus, a NAEP to KPREP eighth grade math proficiency rate gap in 2011-12 would be about 11 percentage points. In 2014-15 the NAEP to KPREP proficiency rate gap grew notably to 16 percentage points. That growth is on the cusp of being a real concern, as well.

Thus, while the picture is not nearly as dramatic as for the eighth grade reading situation, we can certainly see that KPREP math results are notably higher, 12 points higher or more, than the results Kentucky is getting from both the EXPLORE and the NAEP. As we mentioned earlier, this equates to thousands of Kentucky students who are not being given an accurate picture of their true readiness for life after their public school days are ended.

NAEP scores were obtained from the Main NAEP Data Explorer web tool.

The EXPLORE and KPREP scores were obtained from Kentucky School Report Cards.