It’s widely accepted – even in the fad-driven public school education community – longitudinal testing of students provides the best data on progress.
Longitudinal testing means students take short tests several times during each school term, and they also take similar, coordinated tests each succeeding school year. The result is a rich package of information for teachers and parents on how well each child is progressing. With this more frequent testing, teachers also get information back soon enough to make changes that help improve learning.
Longitudinal programs really work, a fact which the Courier-Journal reports Bullitt County teachers are now learning.
But, there is no guarantee that this important program, which is actually mandated in Senate Bill 1, will really work well statewide. Click “read more” to find out why.
Longitudinal programs aren’t new
The United States Air Force was using longitudinal approaches way back in the 1960’s when I was just a lieutenant. Every flight and simulator period was graded, and there were several ‘check rides’ during each major phase of the training program. Each academic class had multiple tests, too. Each student’s progress was closely watched throughout the entire program.
Back in 1992 sharp public school educators in Tennessee figured out the value of longitudinal testing and implemented the Tennessee Value Added Assessment System, or TVAAS. This fall and spring testing program has been a big success. While two Kentucky assessments, the KIRIS assessment and the CATS assessment, have come and gone, TVAAS remains. It is now emulated in a number of other states.
Kentucky educators couldn’t be educated
KERA’s fanatics fought longitudinal testing for almost 20 years. Even after the 1998 legislation that brought us the CATS assessment called for an eventual switch to longitudinal testing, the KERA Amen Chorus simply ignored that requirement. They never complied with that law.
Times change, even in Kentucky
School districts around the state started figuring out the value of longitudinal testing on their own. Even before Senate Bill 1 from the 2008 regular session mandated a switch to longitudinal testing statewide, many school districts had already started longitudinal programs on their own, totally at their own expense.
One of the latest to join the longitudinal testing community is the Bullitt County School District. And, guess what – the Courier-Journal article linked above reports teachers in that school system now see the benefit of this approach.
Longitudinal testing has a long and successful history even though it was fought tooth and nail – right to the end – by some Kentucky education folks we never should have listened to.
Said Greg Schultz, assistant superintendent for curriculum in Bullitt County, “We started late in the game.”
But, it shouldn’t have happened that way. We should have gone longitudinal after 1998. Why didn’t we?
Message to legislators
Kentucky’s legislators must ride much closer herd on the education laws they enact. History shows that our state’s educators need external monitoring.
Just like the CATS bill in 1998, Senate Bill 1 is now in its very critical implementation phase. If we do Senate Bill 1 well, kids can reap significant benefits. But, if the legislature pays little attention to Senate Bill 1’s implementation, then just as happened with CATS, Kentucky will get little, if anything, better than what we have now. And, what we have now isn’t nearly good enough.