Officials say new state test scores may seem confusing

By Katheran Wasson Published:

Kentucky’s public educators face uncharted territory for the next few weeks as they await the first round of scores under the state’s new testing system.

And after they wade through the results, the public will take a turn.

The Kentucky Department of Education hasn’t set a date for the public release of test scores, but spokeswoman Lisa Gross said it could happen by the end of October.

State officials say the new Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress test – K-Prep for short – is tougher and focuses more on college and career readiness than the former CATS test, which was in place for about a decade.

Overhaul of the state’s testing system began in 2009 with legislation known as Senate Bill 1.

Schools and school districts will now get a single score on a scale of 0-100 that encompasses annual test results, college and career readiness measures and graduation rates.

They will have improvement goals each year and must show that they are addressing the needs of minority, low-income and special education students, and those learning English.

And new this year, the state will rank schools and districts statewide based on their overall results. The rankings will be reported as a percentile score, and schools will earn a label of “distinguished,” “proficient” or “needs improvement.”

State officials caution that the upcoming results can’t be compared to previous years because the test is so different and the scoring has changed.

Gross says it’s like comparing the scores of a football game and a basketball game – the numbers are the same, but they mean different things.

But educators know it will be a battle to get that point across to the public after 10 years of CATS testing.

Franklin County Public Schools is planning two community forums next month to explain the changes, and some principals have sent home newsletters to prepare parents for what’s to come.

For example, local parents, teachers and the public are used to seeing school scores in the range of 80 to 100 in recent years. Those scores were calculated on a scale of 0 to 140.

“Simulated” scores sent to school districts last fall ranged from 51 to 70 at schools in Franklin County and Frankfort Independent. That’s based on the new scale of 0 to 100.

Furthermore, state education officials predict that the percentage of students meeting proficiency on the reading and math tests could drop by double digits compared to 2011.

So parents who are used to seeing proficient or distinguished scores on their child’s test results could be surprised to see them drop to apprentice or novice this year.

“We’ve really raised the bar, and for our students to be successful, that’s what we’ve got to do,” FCPS Superintendent Chrissy Jones said.

The community forums are set for 6 p.m. Oct. 2 in the Elkhorn Middle School library and the Western Hills High School library. Details will be sent to parents this week, Jones said.

“(The public) needs to remember that even though the test scores will look a lot different, our focus will still be on ensuring that all of our students are successful.”

Collins Lane Elementary Principal Sharla Six sent a newsletter home to parents recently and posted information on the school’s website.

“It’s a waiting game now,” she said. “Our action plan will depend on how the scores come down.”

One possibility is to offer one-on-one meetings with parents whose kids dropped out of the proficient range. Those students could use the results to help set their personal academic goals, she said.

Parents who are concerned about a drop in their child’s scores can ask the school for additional information, Gross said. Schools administer tests throughout the year and keep other data on student progress.

Six said she and her staff are happy to share any academic information they have with parents.

“The standards have changed, and we’re looking more along the lines of college and career readiness, so it’s a big change,” Six said.

“We’re just going to peel away the layers and use the data to improve – whatever the result – and say, ‘This is what we need to do starting today to move forward.’”

Visit education.ky.gov for more information about the upcoming test results. Several guides are published on the Kentucky Department of Education’s website for parents and the public.

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