LaRue schools prep for new test

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By Ron Benningfield

Test data produced from next spring’s statewide public schools’ assessment will, in many ways, be a great change from the past.
The academic indices districts and schools received from the previous system, CATS (Commonwealth Accountability Testing System) will be replaced by percentages, meaning that in many cases the scores under the new Unbridled Learning system will be lower than previous results; some will be higher, but almost all will be different.
 “As for scores being ‘lower,’ it’s hard for me to comment on that because I don’t know what ‘scores’ anyone would compare back to,” said district instructional supervisor and assessment coordinator Amanda Reed.
Results from the federal “No Child Left Behind” assessment were based on percentages of the highest scores (proficient and distinguished) in only two subject areas — reading and math. The state offered content area percentage scores, a different one for reading, math, science, social studies, and writing, with no official state score “pulling it all together.”
 “The only single number I can think of anyone comparing to would be the Transition Index figure,” said Reed. “That’s a number created by KASC (Kentucky Association of School Councils). It was not an official KDE-sponsored figure but a number this outside agency computed after scores were posted publicly.”
The transition index included the five content area scores, but nothing else, Reed said.
Kentucky’s department of education recently sent simulated results from the new assessment to districts showing what projected scores would be.
For Abraham Lincoln Elementary the Transition Index was 93; projected score from new system is 68. Hodgenville Elementary - Transition Index was 95; projected score from new system is 71. LaRue County Middle School - Transition Index was 101; projected score is 72. LaRue County High School - Transition Index was 82; projected score is 63.
Reed explained, “These scores have the appearance of dropping, but they’re not on the same scale. The transition index has a maximum score of 140 (if all kids scored distinguished on every test, the school score would be 140). The new system has a max score of 100.
 “Our rankings (percentiles) are fairly similar from Transition Index to the new projection,” Reed said. “In fact, ours are all the same or higher.”
For Abraham Lincoln Elementary School the Transition Index percentile ranking was 40 compared to the projected percentile of 43; Hodgenville Elementary School - Transition Index 48; projection, 55; LaRue County Middle School -Transition 88; projection, 88; and LaRue County High School - Transition 73, projection 84.
The district is already preparing staff and students for the new assessment.
“We have updated our common assessments and district progress checks using the new standards and new assessment resources available to us,” Reed said.  “We just received the test format in the last two weeks and are using that information to build practice tests to simulate the test format which will help students adjust to the new time limits.”
Instructors at each school have been teaching and assessing based on the new standards and new types of questions all year, however.
“We used professional development time in the summer to update our curriculum maps, trouble-shoot for transition issues, discuss instructional strategies, and revamp assessments,” said Reed.
With new standards and new assessments, the state will analyze the test results next summer and set new cut scores for Novice, Apprentice, Proficient and Distinguished performance.
 “Commissioner (Terry) Holliday has warned us to be prepared for lower student scores this year,” said Reed. “The standards are harder and the assessment is at a higher level of thinking than our prior assessments. What it will take for a student to score Proficient this year will be tougher than in years past.”