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The testing program tied to one of the nation’s most closely watched education accountability systems is under siege in Kentucky from GOP lawmakers pushing a bill to replace it with nationally standardized tests. The Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, or CATS—stemming from the landmark Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990—covers seven academic areas and includes writing exercises called portfolios. But members of the Republican-controlled state Senate, led by Majority Leader Dan Kelly, say eliminating most of the testing program, which is tied to a high-stakes accountability system, could save the state as much as $10 million a year and give teachers far more time to focus on the curriculum instead of preparing for and administering the CATS...
- Conflicting claims over cost savings - KDE says about "$6 million, out of an annual budget of $11.3 million for the tests now given."
- Since NCLB requires "states to administer tests that are aligned with state curriculum standards" replacing CATS with norm-referenced tests might make it difficult for the state to fully comply. Many states use commercially developed tests and then add items based on state standards.
- Criterion-referenced tests, such as those now used in Kentucky, measure how proficient students are on a set of state standards. Norm-referenced tests, such as CTBS, measure where a child stands in comparison with a sample of peers, with scores reported on a curve that always includes some children at the top and some at the bottom.
- KERA changed curriculum and assessment and served as a model for other states as they joined the move to KIRIS and standards-based approaches to improving schools.
- Complaints made about the KIRIS program—that it didn’t offer individual scores, that it took too long to provide results, and that it didn’t allow for comparisons with other states—are being made about CATS.
- Some policymakers in the state have always been uncomfortable with the fact that the Kentucky tests are meant to measure school performance but cannot be used to compare student to student or state to state.
- The writing portfolios and open-response questions now required under CATS are targeted for elimination.
- Even if administering the writing portions of the test takes significant class time, KDE spokeswoman Lisa Gross said, the change in attitudes toward writing since the passage of the reform law has been dramatic. “Writing isn’t just seen as something we do when we have time,” she said.
- A CPE report showed that "more than half the students entering colleges and universities in the state needed at least one remedial course, especially in mathematics."
- Ky Chamber of Commerce reported "strong connections did not exist between all levels of the education system."
- The percentage of all Kentucky public schools making adequate yearly progress under the federal No Child Left Behind law increased to 77.5 percent in 2007, from 65.8 percent in 2006. But most middle and high schools are still not meeting their goals.
- National Assessment of Educational Progress’ shows that in 2007 4th grade math 27 percent of Kentucky students scored proficient, compared with 33 percent for the nation. In 8th grade reading, 25 percent scored proficient level, below the 27 percent of 8th graders nationally.