Schools prepare for new marks

-A A +A

Scale, academic rigor influence decline in K-PREPS scores

By Ben Sheroan

Following the advice of the Kentucky Department of Education, local school districts are distributing a message of reduced expectation regarding test scores.

The annual CATS exam gave way for a more rigorous K-PREPS test as Kentucky became the first state in the nation to adopt new “common core standards” that serve as a national benchmark for curriculum and assessment.

Related to the change, parents should expect to see a significant drop in score totals for schools and districts, according to the DOE’s Office of Assessment and Accountability.

That’s because of a different scoring system plus an increased challenge of the test, said Mark Kopp, associate superintendent for instructional services at Hardin County Schools.

“It doesn’t mean students did worse on the test,” Kopp said.

The CATS assessment was based on a scale of 140. New K-PREP scores will be lower because it issues a score from 0 to 100.

“Also, the rigor of the test is dramatically different,” Kopp said.

In addition to the test’s difficulty factor, material being tested is different. Mike Selvitelle, director of assessments and technology for Elizabethtown Independent Schools, said it will take time for necessary curriculum changes to be made.

“It’s so different and so new that there will be some changes,” Selvitelle said.

As an example, Kopp described some basic algebra material previously taught to high school sophomores now is an expectation of seventh-grade students.

Kopp said the new assessment’s results should be seen as a baseline report on reading and math skills and should not be compared to previous scores.

“It should be judged differently because the rules have changed,” he said.

Districts are being encouraged to trumpet the message anticipating lower scores, said Kopp, who praised adjustments made by teachers and work done by students.

“In all honesty, our students are doing a wonderful job,” he said.

While it has an immediate impact on scores, administrators expect the new criteria to be a long-term benefit for students.

Individualized student assessments, which are not released publicly, will be available to parents and teachers to build improvement plans.

Selvitelle said as the years pass, student progress will be monitored with great accuracy, allowing for more individualized assessment and performance plans.

Another emphasis built into the system is college or career readiness of all students, Kopp said. That focus will help the administration and teachers develop more impactful curriculum maps and pacing guides to help ensure success of graduates, he said.

Because the overall assessment includes multiple factors beyond the base test score, Kopp said schools will be focused on instruction rather than some cases where teaching for the test may have occurred.

“There’s no ‘gaming’ this system,” Kopp said.

The school systems expect to receive data from the state by mid-October. After local administrators review details for accuracy, school and district scores will be made public.

Ben Sheroan can be reached at (270) 505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.