The annual state assessments are upon us – but it’s out with the old and in with the new!
The new state system is called Unbridled Learning: College/Career-Readiness for All. It replaces CATS and No Child Left Behind (NCLB) since the federal government approved Kentucky’s waiver request. Also, it values multiple measures to rate schools and districts.
· High schools will be rated on five areas: college/career readiness, graduation rate, proficiency achievement, gap, and growth measures.
· Middle schools will be rated on four areas: proficiency achievement, gap, growth and college/career readiness.
· Elementary schools will be rated on three areas: proficiency achievement, gap and growth measures.
This year, schools will be categorized as either distinguished (top 10%), Proficient (Top 30%), or Improvement Needed (below the Top 30%). After this year, all schools and districts will have annual measurable objectives which if achieved will bring a label as a progressing school or district. This means Simpson County Schools will have a single set of goals to meet based on these multiple measures.
I am excited and a little nervous about the changes. It is a new system and there are many unknowns until we actually experience it. However, I do believe it is a marked improvement over NCLB and CATS.
We had been working in the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS), which focused on student proficiency and a 140-point scale and have now been switching gears toward Unbridled Learning, which uses a 100-point scale. In the old system, we had many successes and some notable struggles. In the new system, we have worked hard to prepare our students to do their best. Senate Bill 1 has a stronger focus on college and career readiness, which is exciting since career preparation is now valued in a significant manner.
The Simpson County Board of Education has set a BIG Goal that 100 percent of our high school seniors will be college or career ready by graduation in 2014. There are multiple pathways for students to attain college or career readiness credentials. We believe we can do it because of the instructional and awareness programs under way at all grade levels for students to see and understand the big picture of their future.
The CATS test has been replaced by K-PREP (Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress), which will be the main assessment to measure how well students have learned content based on academic standards, particularly at the elementary and middle school levels.
Other assessments include the high school end -of-course exams (EOC’s) for students in Biology, English 10, Algebra 2, and U.S. History. Additionally, secondary students will take the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT tests. These combined tests show whether students are on course to graduate college-ready.
Finally, On-Demand Writing assessments are administered in the spring for grades 4, 5, 6, 8, 10, & 11.
So when are the tests given? The new system requires less days of testing overall with the bulk of the state assessments occurring on five days during the last 14 days of school.
Official dates for K-PREP are:
· Elementary – May 2-8 (grades 3-5) taking the K-PREP tests
· Middle – May 9-15 (grades 6-8) taking the K-PREP tests
· High – April 24 through May 18 (includes End-of-Course exams, Advance Placement exams, and On-Demand Writing).
The ACT is administered to all juniors in March. EXPLORE and PLAN tests are given in September to 8th and 10th graders respectively. I want to emphasize that the state test is far more important personally to each student now because the high school End of Course (EOC) exams account for 20% of the student’s final grade in the course. Additionally, the graduation requirements now include an expectation that each student give a good faith effort on every test required by the school, district, and state in order to graduate.
So what can parents and community members do to help students?
· Don’t schedule appointments, trips or other interruptions during testing.
· Encourage students to review beforehand and do his/her very best on testing day.
· Remind students of the importance of reading directions carefully and not rushing through a test.
· Review results with students. Praise success and talk about what can be done for areas in need of improvement.
· Remind students about the importance of test scores now and the impact they can have on his or her future opportunities in life.
K-PREP is the main component of the new Unbridled Learning assessment system and is based on many measures of student performance on various tests. Points will be awarded based on how well a school performs on each measure – we expect to receive these results at the beginning of next school year:
· Achievement – Just as in the past, scores will be labeled as novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished. Kentucky’s goal is 100 percent proficiency. At high school, achievement is based on end-of-course exams and an on-demand writing test.
· Gap – Schools will compare test results for African-American, Hispanic, Native American, special education, low-income and limited English proficiency students...combined into one gap group...to results for other students not in those categories.
· Growth – A statistical program will measure how much students’ scores are improving from one year to the next.
· College/Career Readiness – Schools and districts will provide information about how many students are ready for college and/or careers, based on test scores and certifications earned. There are multiple tests and pathways for achieving college/career readiness.
· Graduation Rate – Schools and districts will report how many students graduate within four years of high school.
Overall district scores are ranked in order; overall school scores are ranked in order by level – elementary, middle and high. Based on where they are in the order, schools and districts will fall into one of three main classifications next year:
· Distinguished – the top 10 percent of districts or schools from a particular level (90th percentile).
· Proficient – in the top 30 percent of districts or schools from a particular level but below the top 10 % (70th percentile).
· Needs Improvement – the remaining schools/districts below the top 30%.
Our goal is to hit the Proficient level and then march toward the top 10%. Our vision is like that of Terry Holliday, Kentucky’s commissioner of education, who said, “Every child proficient and prepared for success, which means all students graduate from high school college/career-ready and prepared for the future.”
So join us as we prepare for the new Unbridled Learning assessment system. Encourage students to do their best on the tests. Support our teachers as they are committed to being accountable for student-learning. Be proud of our school system that is goal-oriented and on a path of continuous improvement. We need the support of the entire community as we work to move all students to the goal of college or career readiness by graduation!