Jon Akers, executive director for the Kentucky Center for School Safety, speaks about bullying with the Kentucky Board of Education. Photo by Amy Wallot, June 6, 2012

Jon Akers, executive director for the Kentucky Center for School Safety, speaks about bullying with the Kentucky Board of Education. Photo by Amy Wallot, June 6, 2012

By Matthew Tungate

Teachers will be an integral part of determining whether students score novice, apprentice or distinguished on state reading and mathematics tests.

But scoring proficiency, which was previously based on how well a student performed on state tests, will be determined by whether a student is on track to be college- and career-ready beginning as early as 3rd grade, the Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) learned at its meeting last week.

More than 450,000 state public school students took the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) tests this spring. K-PREP includes tests in reading, mathematics, science, social studies and writing, and standards must be set for all subjects in all grades 3-12.

Student performance on state tests is a factor – along with other school data like graduation rates – in determining school and district scores in the state’s Unbridled Learning: College- and Career-Ready for All assessment and accountability system. The system replaces the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, or CATS.

The Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) will decide this summer what score is needed for a student to be considered novice, apprentice and distinguished, Associate Commissioner Ken Draut told the board during its meeting.

Draut said both statistical data and educator judgment will be used to determine those scores, also called cut scores.

Proficient, which is based on whether students are college and career ready, will be based on students meeting the following ACT scores:

  • Reading, 20
  • English, 18
  • Mathematics, 19

The ACT, which students take in the 11th grade, is predicted by the PLAN test, which they take in the 10th grade. The EXPLORE test, which students take in 8th grade, predicts how students will do on the PLAN test, Draut said.

He said KDE is working with a contractor to statistically link how well students do in K-PREP reading and mathematics tests in grades 3-8 to how they do on the EXPLORE test. That link will then be used to establish what score a student needs to get to be considered proficient.

To determine what scores are required to reach apprentice and distinguished, however, KDE is forming teacher panels in reading and mathematics this summer. The teachers will take the K-PREP tests, review the questions from easiest to hardest, look at how students did statewide and determine the minimum score to be considered apprentice and distinguished, Draut said.

The panels also will write descriptors of what it takes to reach each level, which teachers can then use to help improve student achievement on tests in subsequent years, Draut said.

The same process will be used to determine cut scores for science and social studies once new standards have been set for those subjects, Draut said.

High school students are evaluated for K-PREP through end-of-course (EOC) tests in Algebra II, English, Biology and U.S. History. Draut said results of those tests correlate well to PLAN and ACT scores. So a panel will use statistical analysis to link EOC results to a proficient score, and the panel will decide the minimum score for apprentice and distinguished.

Students in grades 5, 6, 8, 10 and 11 also take a writing test. Draut said there is no statistical link between college readiness and writing scores, so a panel of teachers will set the minimum standards for apprentice, proficient and distinguished.

Draut said the panels will make recommendations to Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and, if approved, the standards will be applied to the test results in September. The results will then be released publicly.

Holliday cautioned the board to expect test scores to be lower than in previous years because of the standards and testing changes.

“This is going to be tough come early September,” he said. “We’re not doing worse; we’re doing much better. It’s just a different standard: college- and career-readiness.”

During the meeting, the board also approved two testing changes  – one on accountability and the other on accommodations for students with special needs.

The changes will be reviewed this summer by the Legislative Research Commission and the General Assembly’s Education Assessment Regulation Review Subcommittee and Interim Joint Committee on Education. Once those reviews are complete, the regulations will be final.

The accountability change had to do with a state testing regulation that holds schools accountable for reducing the achievement gap between all its students and groups of students who have traditionally performed lower on state tests, like students with disabilities or who receive free- and reduced-price meals. The regulation calls for the 10 percent of schools with the greatest achievement gaps that do not meet their annual growth expectation (called Annual Measurable Objective, or AMO) for two years to be called “focus schools.”

Concerned that high-performing schools might be able to mask achievement gaps, the board approved removing regulation language that calls for schools to miss AMO for two years before being designated as focus schools.

The board changed another regulation during the meeting that would prohibit the use of readers on reading comprehension portions of K-PREP. Readers would still be allowed for state mathematics, social studies, science and writing assessments. The change also would not impact the classroom use of readers, technology or other accommodations.

Districts would be allowed to request a waiver from the prohibition from KDE no less than four weeks before the test is to be taken.

Board member Judy Gibbons said there still are misconceptions about the use of a reader on state and national tests, which also would be affected by the regulation.

“This does not apply to anything except the reading,” she said.

During the December board meeting, Draut told the board that Kentucky is one of only eight states that allow reader accommodations during state testing of reading comprehension. Because of that, the state has one of the highest exclusion rates in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

More than 42 percent of students with disabilities in Kentucky were allowed readers on the reading test in 2011. NAEP allows a state to exempt up to 15 percent of its students with disabilities; however, in Kentucky 58 percent of 8th graders with disabilities and 53 percent of 4th graders with disabilities were excluded from 2011 NAEP reading tests.

Nawanna Privett is sworn in by Judge Phillip Shepherd as the newest member of the Kentucky Board of Education during last week's meeting in Frankfort, Ky. Photo by Amy Wallot, June 6, 2012

Nawanna Privett is sworn in by Judge Phillip Shepherd as the newest member of the Kentucky Board of Education during last week’s meeting in Frankfort, Ky. Photo by Amy Wallot, June 6, 2012

In other business, the board:

  • welcomed new member Nawanna Privett to the board
  • recognized Phillip Rogers, outgoing executive director of the Education Professional Standards Board, with a resolution noting his service to the Commonwealth
  • heard an update on a Learning Forward initiative that will help Kentucky and other states implement new subject-area standards and received a report on professional growth in the state
  • heard how the Kentucky Center for School Safety and the Kentucky Department of Education provide support for districts on the issue of bullying
  • reviewed 704 KAR 7:160 (Use of Restraint and Seclusion in Public Schools) and corresponding federal Department of Education guidelines
  • reviewed state regulation 704 KAR 3:305 (Minimum Requirements for High School Graduation) as it relates to 2012’s Senate Bill 43
  • heard a report on Title IX deficiencies for schools audited during the 2011-12 school year and planned activities for 2012-13

The board will hold a retreat and regular meeting on Aug. 8-9 in Frankfort.