Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Viewpoint: SB 1 and raising standards

Over at Prichard, Susan offers some observations on Senate Bill 1 and its opposition to Kentucky's lowered standards.
Since 1990, Kentucky testing has had three scoring systems, each easier than the last. By easier, I mean two things.

First, we set new "cut points" when we changed from 1998 KIRIS to 1999 CATS and when we changed from the 1999-2006 version of CATS to the revised 2007 and 2008 CATS. At the moment that we put the new cut points to work, many more
students were counted as proficient.

Second, we asked for less complex kinds of student performance. From KIRIS to CATS, we dropped performance events and added multiple choice. From "CATS I" to "CATS II" we gave multiple choice more weight than it had before.

Senate Bill 1 demands something different. It calls for P-12 standards to be aligned with college expectations...


Richard Innes said...


Comments in the Prichard Blog about test scores in Kentucky are interesting. I’m glad Prichard now admits there was a steady relaxation of rigor in Kentucky’s old assessment programs.

The Bluegrass Institute has been making that case for years in papers, Blogs and even You Tubes.

Bluegrass conducted longitudinal studies of the dubious changes in KIRIS and CATS proficiency rates over time. We also developed a new tool we call the “NAEP Ruler” to examine proficiency rate progress in CATS versus what the NAEP shows. And, after the legislature adopted Senate Bill 130 in 2006, we began to look at the very different messages the new EPAS tests and CATS were providing.

In fact, it was clear long before the recent legislative session began that scores from Kentucky’s testing system had steadily inflated. This was one of the reasons why the legislature unanimously voted to discard CATS – like KIRIS, it had simply worn out its own credibility with inflated pictures of our true performance.

Anyway, even though the dust has settled on Senate Bill 1, it’s nice that Prichard has joined us in admitting our past assessments were indeed becoming watered down over time. Clearly, this requires better attention as we revise our testing program, and it is helpful to have Prichard on the same page regarding this problem.

One final note – I’m glad you referenced the Prichard post here. Prichard at present has locked me out of commenting on their site, and presumably others who ask challenging questions or raise alternative interpretations also might not be posted there, either. I salute KSN & C’s position on commenting, which matches the BluegrassPolicy Blog’s position, that all posts are welcome so long as they don’t cross the line into profanity or personal attacks. Hopefully, the Prichard Committee will review its policy and rejoin us as full members of the open Blogosphere, as well.

Richard Day said...


I knew this comment was coming.

Before hooking up with Prichard formally, Susan has always been straight forward in discussing shortcomings - at least privately with me. I really do believe there is sober reflection going on. Now that she has joined Prichard and is writing daily perhaps we will hear more such reflection.

From the earliest days of KERA there was a strong culture of reform among education leaders but it was one of preserving KERA rather than perfecting it. The newspapers were in on it too. Any educator who challenged KERA could find themselves somewhat marginalized. The prevalent belief was that if we opend KERA to change the whole thing might come under attack from conservative legislators. That may have been true. Eck Rose once told me he doubted he'd have the votes needed to save KERA after 1996.

For myself, I opposed KIRIS's moving targets and absent curriculum but liked CATS 1 much better - mostly because it held still for several years and I could gauge trends, even if imperfectly. CATS 2, not so much, but I blame NCLB rather than KERA for that mess.

Thanks for the comment.