Once again, Kentucky finds itself in the national spotlight for public school testing.
The reason: new “Kentucky Performance Report for Educational Progress” (K-PREP) tests in elementary and middle school reading and mathematics are the first in the nation to be fully developed around the new Common Core State Standards. Those new standards have been adopted by more than 45 states, so Americans all across the country are anxious to see how these new standards and tests based on those standards actually perform.
The math and reading scores from the K-PREP are only part of long-awaited results from Kentucky’s new public school assessment and accountability programs. The results from the K-PREP tests and the new “Unbridled Learning” school accountability program are long overdue.
People are asking questions like:
“What do these new test scores show?”
“Is Kentucky’s new program really more rigorous?”
“Is there more rigor in each separate tested area of reading, math, science, social studies and writing?”
“Is K-PREP rigorous enough in each of those areas?”
“Is the new “Gap” calculation a suitable substitute for the protections minority students enjoyed under No Child Left Behind?”
“Is Unbridled Learning so complex that scores will always be delayed?”
And, perhaps most important, “Does scoring “Proficient” on the new K-PREP really mean my child is on track to enter college and careers?”
I am confident the newspapers will cover the basic school rankings from Unbridled Learning in detail, so we will begin here by digging deeper into what the new tests seem to represent for individual students and their parents. Instead of looking at the overall school accountability scores, which are based on very complex and sometimes confusing calculations, we’ll start out examining the proficiency rate scores from K-PREP. We will also examine the serious question about performance gaps as they are reported by K-PREP as opposed to what we used to get from the No Child Left Behind program.
To begin, we analyze the closest available testing results from other tests such as the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and tests from the ACT, Inc. such as the ACT college entrance test and closely related tests to the ACT that are given to our eighth and tenth grade students to explore the scoring rigor in the new K-PREP. Whenever possible, we tried to match the same year and grade level results from K-PREP to the other assessments. When that was not possible, we looked at the most closely matched cohorts available.
To briefly overview what we are going to show you, this graphic shows where we found the K-PREP scoring looked on target for predicting progress towards college and careers. We also show the many areas where the new assessment’s scoring appeared somewhat below the required level of rigor. In a disturbing surprise, we found a number of cases where the scores provided by the new K-PREP were essentially no different from the scores we got under the now disbanded CATS system. While that may not be a problem in social studies, where no comparison tests from ACT or NAEP are available, it is a very big issue for science.
In essence, where the cells in the table are colored bright red, it is as if Kentucky remains locked into an CATS set of academic standards that many consider to be well below what is needed.
In our multi-part blogs, which will appear over several days, we’ll take a more detailed look at student proficiency rates by subject and grade beginning at the school level where we have the most comparison data to show you: middle schools.