Enacting Senate Bill 1 will change dramatically Kentucky’s assessment and accountability systems. There are four major departures from the existing assessment that we find problematic and should be carefully scrutinized. Careful scrutiny includes identifying changes that have broader implications than might at first be evident.
1. The first major change is moving the focus away from school outcomes to individual academic achievement.
This could substantially reduce the amount of information that is available to schools and districts, information they have used in the past to judge in a particular content area what part of the core content they have done well and what part not so well. The reason for the reduction is that previous assessments produced more than one form for the assessment thereby increasing the breadth and depth of what was sampled. This change also may not have its intended results of better measurements at the individual level. Because the test is expected to be an adequate sample of Kentucky’s core content, produce national norm-referenced results, and provide diagnostic information, the attempt to do all three things may limit how well it does any one of them.
2. The second major change is moving parts of the assessment from the state level accountability portion to the district level where there is no formal accountability.
Moving things to the district level and making the district responsible for parts of the assessment is not necessarily a bad thing to do. Other states have done similar things. But it may not be wise to move just some of the assessment to a new level. An assessment that is part state accountability and part district responsibility may prove to weaken both. We are particularly concerned about the effects of such changes on Kentucky’s long standing commitment to teaching students to write well.
3. The third major change is assessing with only multiple choice items.
Open-ended responses, the writing portfolio, and on-demand writing have been eliminated. Given the nature of the goals, standards, and expectations for Kentucky schools, we do not believe that an assessment that relies exclusively on multiple-choice items can adequately describe those outcomes. Measurements that tap more easily more complex skills and knowledge are both necessary and desirable.
4. The fourth, and perhaps most important, major change is reducing and perhaps eliminating the participation of teachers in the formal assessment.
In the past teachers have worked on content standards, created test questions, evaluated portfolios, and graded open-response items. Although a cadre of teachers became experts in these areas, creating technical expertise was not the main purpose of the involvement. The purpose was to provide opportunities for teachers to see how instruction, standards, and assessmentsshould be intimately tied together. These activities are powerful ways to make teachers both better teachers and better assessors.
Monday, March 03, 2008
As KSN&C readers may know that when it comes to assessment, I play favorites.
Over the years, the best, most reliable, and independent sources of information regarding assessment in Kentucky have consistently come from three individuals, Skip Kifer, Ben Oldham and Tom Guskey. I am fortunate to have studied under Ben and Skip at UK. Furthermore, as a principal, I would share my data with Skip annually and he would selflessly sit with me and analyze gap closing and the overall performance of Cassidy students. Tom has built a fine national reputation for scholarly excellence.
If we ever disagree - they're probably right.
If I had a magic wand - they'd redesign and oversee the state's assessment program rather than KDE, but that's another story.
Recently - owing largely to Skip and Tom's disillusionment with some things at UK - they became ripe for recruitment by Vice President Ben Oldham at Georgetown College. Their formation of the Center for the Advanced Study of Assessment is a major coup for the small liberal arts college.
Today they weigh in on Senate Bill 1 in a 19-page analysis posted at the Prichard Committee.
Read the whole thing. But here is their conclusion: