Graphic reading: Commissioner's Student Advisory Council Virtual Meeting, Aug. 24, 2021Members of the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council (SAC) had the opportunity to provide their feedback on the transition from paper to online state assessments that occurred during the previous school year.

Jennifer Stafford, director of KDE’s Division of Assessment and Accountability Support, joined the SAC’s regular meeting on Aug. 24 to discuss the switch.

Stafford explained that there was a desire to transition state testing to an online platform during the 1990s, but the technology was not advanced enough. Today, schools have much more access to technology and there are more ways for teachers to incorporate technology into their classrooms.

In the spring 2020 semester, KDE piloted a version of online testing for state assessments in reading, mathematics, science, on-demand and editing/mechanics. Thousands of students across the Commonwealth had the opportunity to take online assessments and had minimal issues. Therefore, in the spring 2021 semester, a decision was made to fully make the transition to online state testing, as well as field test social studies.

Stafford said with the online testing, students were able to start and complete a large number of assessments in a single day. On May 11 alone, nearly 180,000 assessments were started statewide. More than 1 million online Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) assessments were completed during the spring of 2021.

Anastasia Panaretos, a junior at South Oldham High School (Oldham County), said she and her friends liked the online platform for K-PREP more than the standard paper version, but it seemed like they were given too much time to take the exam.

“The one thing that we would have wanted was maybe just a shorter time frame, because we did not need an hour to take 15 questions,” said Panaretos.

Sam Smith, a senior at Daviess County High School, said that while he did not take the state assessment online, he took several Advanced Placement exams online, and he was concerned that not every student or school may have devices with a high enough quality to take the assessment. Stafford said KDE works with schools to ensure they know which devices support the online platform.  

Joy Ntakarutimana, a senior at Tates Creek High School (Fayette County), suggested standard paper tests be available for students in situations where they are unable to take their assessment online, such as poor internet connection or special needs.

“There will be a number of situations that we would encounter that students would need the paper [tests], so it wouldn’t go away completely,” said Stafford.

Student Right to Know Website

Scott U’Sellis, academic program manager in KDE’s Office of Career and Technical Education, told SAC members about Kentucky Students’ Right to Know, a combined effort between the Kentucky Center for Statistics (KYStats) and the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

The website helps students research degree programs at Kentucky’s public colleges and universities, allowing them to compare tuition, student debt and salaries for hundreds of occupations before choosing a major.

The website offers extensive data on all of the state’s public universities and the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. 

Using the tool, students can compare the overall cost of attendance, tuition, financial aid and graduation rates for each institution, among other factors. Users also can review workforce and salary data for particular fields of study.

“We’re actively pushing this right now to make sure more and more kids and parents know about this so that you all can make smart decisions as you all go on to school,” said U’Sellis.