Thursday, October 04, 2007

Board ignores experts, declares CATS test legitimate

The Kentucky Department of Education told schools across the state that the new CATS test had been changed so much that it would be technically inappropriate to compare scores from 2006 with the 2007 version.

Several testing experts, education advocates and observers have raised doubts and presented data that shows the deparment's warning to be sound.

Some have even used that data as evidence to show that the alterations to the test helped produce some of the boost in numbers - that the gains could not all be attributed to increased student achievement.

KSN&C began raising questions last spring when the test was first being administered, and without prompting, teachers were describing the new assessment as "noticably easier."

But it turns out we were all wrong...according to the Kentucky Board of Education.

State board: Higher CATS scores are legitimate

Kentucky Board of Education members yesterday dismissed the idea that changes to state tests led to inflated scores this year. Instead, they cited more focused classroom instruction, stronger curriculums and additional teacher training for the gains at all levels.

"The assessment has not changed to the point that it's becoming easier for our students," said board member Bonnie Lash Freeman. "We're just doing a better job with where our instruction is. Our teachers are doing a wonderful job overall in preparing our students for these assessments."

At a meeting yesterday, board members heard a presentation about the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System scores, released Tuesday. A Herald-Leader analysis of test scores showed that after drastic changes to the test and a revised scoring system, scores of previously low-performing and high-performing schools improved more dramatically than in previous years...

..."If we're going to reach proficiency by the target date, we will have to experience jumps of that nature," said board member David Webb. "I hope that we see that kind of dramatic improvement everywhere."

Board members also discussed whether to continue assigning two scores to each school after next year. They did not vote on the issue, but they recommended that schools receive only the unadjusted score beginning in 2009...

...Bob Sexton of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence [correctly said], ..."No doubt there were gains. What these gains specifically are, we don't know," said Sexton. "We don't know if the numbers are exactly accurate."

Board chairman Joe Brothers said it will take a few more years to see whether the transition to the new system has been smooth. But he also thinks the latest test scores can be attributed to enhanced learning and instruction.

"We should begin to see (big gains) because we've been at this 17 years and so at some point, the momentum begins to shift," he said. "Once you get rolling, things become easier."

This from the Herald-Leader.

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