What do the new state test scores really mean?

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Kentucky holds schools and districts to high standards for educating children.  In 2009, Kentucky’s General Assembly passed Senate Bill 1, which changed the state’s public education system.  New, more rigorous standards were adopted, new tests were aligned to these standards, and the focus shifted to student readiness for life after high school.   Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards for math and language arts.  These new standards were first taught in the 2011-2012 school year and were tested in May 2012.   

In the past few days, Kentucky schools and districts have received their results and the results will be shared publically on Nov. 2.  It is important for parents and the community to understand that scores on these new assessments cannot be compared to previous state assessments.  There are two reasons why this is the case.  First, the standards being tested are different.  Secondly, the range of scores has shifted from 0-140 to 0-100.  

School and district scores are based on many measures of student performance on various tests. Points will be determined on how well a school performs on each measure. These measures include;
• Achievement:  Students in grades 3-8 received a rating of novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished on tests in reading and math.  Various grades also tested in science, social studies, writing and language mechanics.  High school student performance is based on end of course assessments in Algebra II, English 2, U.S. History, and Biology, as well as on-demand writing.   

Gap:  This will compare test results for low income students, special education students, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, and Limited English Proficiency students to other students who are not in these categories.
• Growth: The measure of how much students’ scores are improving from one year to the next.
College/Career Readiness:  Number of students determined on track (8th grade Explore scores) and ready for college/career (ACT scores).
• Graduation Rate:  Based on how many students graduate within four years of high school.

Elementary school points are determined on the first three measures (30 percent achievement, 30 percent gap, and 40 percent growth). Middle School Points are determined on the first four measures (28 percent each for Achievement, Gap, and Growth and 16 percent College/Career Readiness).  High school points are determined on all five measures (20 percent for each category).

Once points are calculated using the above weights, an overall accountability score from 0-100 is produced.  This number will be used to rank schools and districts to determine their classification. The three classifications are:
• Distinguished:  The top 10 percent of schools and districts.
• Proficient:  Schools and Districts in the 70th to 89th  percentile
• Needs Improvement: Schools and districts below the 70th  percentile.
With the release of the scores to schools and districts this week, teachers and administrators from across the state are busy pouring over the results to identify strengths and weaknesses.  Data from these assessments will help schools identify improvement areas in order to reach Kentucky’s goal of every child proficient and prepared for success, which means college/career ready when students graduate high school.  Parents will be receiving an individual report on the achievement of their children compared to school, state and national results, including information regarding academic strengths and weaknesses.  
Once results have been released publically, anyone wishing to view the scores may do so by visiting the school and district report cards on the Kentucky Department of Education website.  This can be found at www.education.ky.gov.  If you have additional questions regarding the new accountability system or a school’s or district’s performance, I encourage you to contact the school’s principal or the district’s assessment coordinator.

(Misty Middleton is the instructional supervisor for Williamstown Schools. She can be reached at 859-824-7144.)