By Mike Marsee
There will be some changes in the assessment system this year as Kentucky transitions to a new accountability model for the 2018-19 school year.
Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) assessments will continue to be used for elementary and middle school students in grades 3-8 in reading, mathematics, social studies and on-demand writing. Reading and mathematics are assessed every year, whereas science, social studies and on-demand writing are given once per grade span. These assessments are considered operational and will count toward accountability and produce student performance levels; novice, apprentice, proficient and distinguished.
A new science assessment was field tested in grades 4 and 7 last year. For the 2017-18 school year, the science assessment will be operational. This new cluster-based assessment provides the final piece of the science system of assessments, which includes classroom-embedded assessments, through-course assessments and the statewide summative assessments. With this new system, schools and districts will learn how well courses and programs are being implemented, ensuring that each student is able to engage with science standards.
In high school, students in grade 11 will take the ACT to fulfill the college admissions assessment requirement, and they also will take an on-demand writing assessment as they have in the past. The biggest changes will be for students enrolled in Algebra II, biology and English II, who will be participating in newly designed end-of-course (EOC) field tests that have been developed by Kentucky teachers. A fourth end-of-course assessment will be added in U.S. history after the process of revising standards is complete.
First established in Kentucky during the 2011-12 school year, end-of-course assessments were administered to students at the completion of specific courses. Previous versions of end-of-course assessments were created by a test vendor based on their standards.
“Kentucky’s new end-of-course assessments which will be field tested this year were developed by Kentucky teachers,” said Michael Hackworth, a branch manager in KDE’s Office of Assessment and Accountability. “They are aligned to the Kentucky Academic Standards and will be administered through an online system.”
“We want to make sure everyone realizes this is a field-test year,” said Brandy Beasley, the assessment liaison in KDE’s Office of Teaching and Learning. “Schools will not receive information on student achievement. Producing student performance levels is not the purpose of the field test. The field test provides us the opportunity to make adjustments to questions and formatting before becoming an operational test.”
SB 1 (2017) requires teachers in the content areas tested to be involved in the development and review of the exams. Teachers were selected through an application process and worked in teams to create the field test exams using Kentucky’s standards.
“I believe it’s a tremendous benefit to our teachers and our students,” Beasley said. “Who better to understand our standards and create assessments than the teachers who use those standards every day?”
Beasley said the new end-of-course exams are the final piece in making sure Kentucky’s standards, classes and assessments are aligned.
“It’s really interesting to see how all of this fits together now,” she said. “You’ve got the standards that are used to define the courses in which students are enrolled, and now those standards are used to develop the assessments, which is fabulous.
“If teachers are familiar with the standards and have been using them to guide their instruction, then this change may seem minimal. For those educators who are not familiar with Kentucky’s current standards, this transition may be more difficult as they work to understand the intent of the standards and how that will look in their classrooms.”
The biggest change, however, might be in the way students take the end-of-course exams. They’re entirely online, which will be new for many teachers and students. KDE is in the process of developing practice tests and tutorials to help prepare teachers and students for the new online experience.
“Teachers are very eager to the see and administer the practice tests, and they want the tutorial for the online tests,” Hackworth said. “We have tried in our office to remove some of the anxiety with this new testing by offering many resources.
“We will be there for support, and we really encourage district and school staff members to allow students to take the practice tests and use the online tutorials. In addition, as a teacher, a building assessment coordinator or a district assessment coordinator, they probably should do the same to become familiar with the online system, the test format and item types.”
Tests will be set up through the PearsonAccessnext and administered in the TestNav system.
The system will have several tools, including ones that allow students to review an answer, to bookmark a question for later review or to eliminate answers in a multiple choice or multiple select question format. There also is an online calculator that students will use for the Algebra II exam.
Multiple select questions differ from multiple choice. Multiple choice questions have four answer choices with one correct choice. Multiple select questions have five answer choices for the student to choose from and they may have more than one correct answer.
“The sample test will give students an opportunity to practice with those types of questions as well as the online tools prior to the administration of the field test,” Beasley said.
During the EOC field testing period, KDE will be monitoring testing sessions to observe the process, time the students and answer questions about the tests.
Hackworth and Beasley said adjustments will be made to the tests based on what is learned this year from the field tests.
“We’ll learn a lot from the field tests,” Beasley said. “It’ll be interesting to get the data back from the field tests and see where we are.”
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