Kentucky Tonight just held a discussion of the pending CATS Task Force that will be looking at the state’s public school assessment program. It was three educators against our friend Martin Cothran from the Family Foundation, so the educators were outnumbered.
One item the educators brought up repeatedly was how much improvement they have seen in writing. That’s just more evidence our educators see too much in too little, so I called in to the show to share the latest results on eighth grade writing from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). I thought you might like to know about that, too.
The NAEP 2007 Writing Report Card says Kentucky’s eighth graders made no statistically significant change in writing performance between 2002 and 2007. That’s half a decade of flat performance.
The 2007 NAEP proficiency rate for our eighth graders was only 26 percent – just one of four Kentucky kids scored proficient for writing. That was a statistically insignificant change from the 25 percent proficiency reported in 2002. In fact, since 1998, a decade ago, the NAEP eighth grade writing proficiency rate in Kentucky has only gone up 5 points – but there is a catch.
While posting its miniscule score improvement between 1998 and 2007, Kentucky’s exclusion rate for students with learning disabilities shot up faster than anywhere else in the country, rising from two to six percent of the entire NAEP raw sample of students. This big increase probably means most, if not all, of the tiny writing score rise since 1998 is an illusion. Scores look a bit better if you simply prevent a lot more of your weakest kids from taking the test.
By the way, over that same period, the CATS said our middle school kids “on-demand” writing sample, which was collected in a manner similar to the sort of testing conditions the NAEP uses, exploded from just 5.92 percent proficient to 42 percent proficient. So, CATS went from being graded far too hard to being graded much easier than the NAEP. That’s just perfect if you are an education person trying to make yourself look good.
It’s terrible if you are a member of the public searching for the truth about how schools are really doing.
And, all of this shows how CATS just confuses educators and the public alike.