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By NANNETTE JOHNSTON
“When I was in school …” is a phrase I hear in community conversations about the “good ole days.” Although it is tempting, we really cannot compare school from the past, the present and what we face in the future. Likewise, we might be tempted to compare our new standards and testing system to our past system but they are as different as night and day.
Kentucky became the first state to adopt the National Common Core Standards in English/language arts and math. The development of the national standards helped Kentucky meet the law as defined by Senate Bill 1. This legislation called for a more balanced testing and accountability system that sought to assess how prepared students were for life after high school.
I’m sure our students shared with parents, family and friends how much the new testing models challenged them last spring. Well, the day is quickly approaching that we will find out how our students did on the tests.
K-PREP tests were given to elementary and middle schools. High school students took end-of-course assessments. These tests were different from the standardized testing which you and your students are accustomed.
What we used to see taught in eighth grade, in some content areas, is now taught in fourth grade. What used to be taught in 10th grade, in some content areas, is now taught in seventh grade.
Here is an example of a test that could appear on a sixth grade exam:
6m + 5p³-1
What is the value of the expression when m1/3 and p2. Show your work.
What can we expect when we see the test results?
First, we know all schools across the state will see a drop in scores for two main reasons. The overall assessment on the former state exam was on a 0-140 scale and the new K-PREP tests are on a 0-100 scale. So, even if a student performed the same on the new test, the score will be lower. This factor added to the increased rigor and depth of the content of the content standards will impact the scores.
Think of it this way. In my “younger days,” I was an avid golfer. I played each day on the same community course I had played for years. There were very few sand traps, only one water hazard and par for 18 holes was 72 strokes. One advantage that I enjoyed was hitting my drive from the lady’s tee. Under those conditions on this familiar course, I had a very consistent and competitive score. Now, let’s say I am playing a round of golf on a championship course with multiple hazards, I don’t have the advantage of the lady’s tee and par for the course has dropped from 72 to 60. My golf game and skill has not gotten worse, the conditions are much more difficult and I must work hard to adjust to the new expectations. The same thing has happened to our state accountability tests for our students, faculty and schools.
Under these new conditions, I would soon become accustomed to the longer greens and new score for par. In the same way, we will soon get used to the tougher standards and the new testing and accountability system. Remember, just because your students’ scores are much different, does not mean they have taken steps backward. Your students are just as sharp and are working harder than ever in and out of the classroom.
We welcome the difficulty and we are up for the challenge. We know our students will grow and will use this growth as our new measuring stick. As we reminisce about the “good ole days,” we also realize that we are preparing our students for competition in a technology-driven world. We want to make sure our students are ready to lead our community in the future.
Nannette Johnston is superintendent of Hardin County Schools.