Are Kentucky’s Common Core aligned KPREP School Assessment results starting to inflate?

The new state assessment results were released last week, and while you’ve been reading claims of progress in the media, I have some reservations.

I’ve been assembling information on how the new Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (KPREP) test results for math and reading compare to other testing results for Kentucky. KPREP math and reading tests are aligned to the new Common Core State Standards, and Kentucky was the first state to adopt Common Core aligned tests in these subjects. So, there is interest around the nation in these results.

Today, I discuss how KPREP compares to Kentucky’s recent results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

Graph 1 covers fourth grade reading proficiency rates from the 2011 and 2013 NAEP and the 2012, 2013 and 2014 KPREP.

GRAPH 1

G4 Reading KPREP Vs. NAEP 2011 to 2014

Here is how to read this graph. Look at the first set of bars on the left, which is for white students. The first bar in this group, which has blue herringbone shading, shows that in 2011, the year before KPREP began, 37 percent of Kentucky’s white fourth grade students scored at or above the NAEP “Proficient” level. The second, solid rose red bar shows that in 2012 Kentucky’s white fourth grade students’ reading proficiency rate was reported to be 50.5 percent on KPREP. In 2013, the solid cream colored bar shows that KPREP reported an increase in white fourth grade reading proficiency to 52.3 percent. That same year, 2013, the green herringbone bar shows NAEP reported for the same group of Kentucky white fourth grade students that reading proficiency was only 39 percent. Finally, the solid blue bar shows the new 2014 KPREP reported a significant jump in Kentucky’s white fourth grade reading proficiency rate to 57.6 percent.

One thing to note in the first graph is that the solid colored KPREP results uniformly report higher proficiency rates than those shown by the herringbone NAEP bars and the difference has been growing. Furthermore, the differences vary notably by race. That causes me some concern.

My concerns grow when we look at the reading performance for Kentucky’s black fourth grade students, shown by the middle section of Graph 1. KPREP reports a steady increase in Kentucky fourth grade black reading proficiency while recent NAEP scores indicate a notable decline.

My concerns continue when we look at the Hispanic results for fourth grade reading. The NAEP shows a decline in performance that is worse than what Kentucky’s blacks experienced while KPREP reports consistent improvement.

Now, let’s look at the eighth grade math situation in Graph 2. Here NAEP shows essentially flat performance for all three racial groups between 2011 and 2013. In notable contrast, the white eighth grade KPREP scores show steady increases. However, KPREP scores for both blacks and Hispanics have bounced up and down.

Both blacks and Hispanics lost ground in Kentucky between 2013 and 2014 on KPREP, but the proficiency rates reported from the state’s own testing program still remain much higher than the most recent NAEP results. This raises questions about possible differential functioning of these tests by race, a situation that clearly needs more research.

GRAPH 2

G8 Math KPREP Vs. NAEP 2011 to 2014

Here are the other two graphs for fourth grade math and eighth grade reading.

GRAPH 3

G4 Math KPREP Vs. NAEP 2011 to 2014

GRAPH 4

G8 Reading KPREP Vs. NAEP 2011 to 2014

Again, these additional graphs show evidence that KPREP may be getting inflated in comparison to the state’s NAEP performances.

Unfortunately, we won’t get another report from the NAEP until late 2015. Furthermore, it is uncertain if the NAEP will be changed due to pressure from the Common Core State Standards. However, at present the disparities between available NAEP data and the KPREP is obviously becoming a concern. Are we really making much progress? I think it may be too soon to tell, but KPREP may be experiencing the same sort of inflation issues that ultimately doomed the KIRIS and CATS assessments that preceded it in Kentucky.

Technical Information

The NAEP data was assembled from the NAEP Data Explorer.

KPREP results come from the statewide Kentucky School Report Card for each year.