Kentucky to Include Norm-Referenced Test in Accountability Plan
Officials have not decided how much weight to give the exams. In Kentucky, standardized-test scores will soon matter, at least a little.
The state school board this month directed that results from the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills be included in the new accountability system it is creating. The state has given the norm-referenced exam for the past two years, but did not include its results in the formula for determining schools' rewards or sanctions.
While board members said they would include the norm-referenced results in their new accountability system beginning next year, they won't decide how much weight they will carry until December, according to Lisa Y. Gross, a spokeswoman for the state education department. But they agreed that scores on the standardized test will be "a very small part" of the total, she added.
The move is significant because until now Kentucky's system of rewards and sanctions has relied chiefly on portfolios and performance-based exams designed to test students' knowledge of state standards. In contrast, norm-referenced exams gauge how students stack up against one another.
The change is "a necessary political compromise," said Robert F. Sexton, the executive director of the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, a Lexington-based group of business and community leaders that has supported the state's pioneering school reforms over the past eight years.
"It satisfies the concerns of a number of parents for having some kind of national comparison," Mr. Sexton said. "If it helps build public confidence, then we think it's a necessary adjustment."
The overhaul of the accountability system is one of the many changes the Kentucky legislature mandated last spring. ("Ky. Bids KIRIS Farewell, Ushers in New Test," April 22, 1998.)
The state board has selected CTB/McGraw Hill to run the new testing system required by the law. The California company will give the reading, mathematics, and language arts versions of its CTBS to 3rd, 6th, and 9th graders. It also will produce exams to assess how well 4th, 5th, 7th, and 8th graders stack up against the state's standards in reading, history, the arts, and other subjects.
All those results will be included in the new accountability system, as will so-called noncognitive factors such as attendance and dropout rates.
At its December meeting, the board will decide how much weight to give each of the factors and how to define progress according to their results.
Vol. 18, Issue 8, Page 16