Senate bill may bring big changes to Kentucky schools
by Hawkins Teague
Feb 27, 2008 | 0 0 comments | 2 2 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A proposed bill before the Kentucky Senate could radically change the way students are tested every year and how school accountability will be judged in the future.

Sen. Ken Winters (R-Murray) represents Trigg County and is the chairman of the Kentucky Senate Committee on Education. He is one of several cosponsors of Senate Bill 1, “An ACT relating to student testing.” Senate President David Williams is the principal sponsor. Winters said the bill’s main goal is to eliminate the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) in favor of a more nationalized test. He said that adopting a national norm reference test would not only help teachers target more specific areas in which students need help, but would also dramatically shorten the time it takes for the schools to get the test results back.

“A lot of people are frustrated at the fact that so much time and money is invested in the current testing system, which mostly compares schools to schools,” Winters said. “They don’t always deal with how students progress from year to year.”

Winters said instruction in Kentucky’s public schools is often focused only on preparing students to take the tests every April. After this effort is over, the instruction can sometimes be limited for the rest of the school after the tests are over, he said. Winters said that since the CATS exam is primarily used to judge the schools’ progress, is doesn’t give enough data on individual students that will be helpful to teachers. He said that many national norms reference tests do a better job of providing specific “longitudinal” information, and that that information will help teachers step in and focus on the areas in which the individual students need tutoring. In addition, using a more nationalized test would better equip schools to meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, he said. The bill does not stipulate a specific norm reference test.

Although there are plenty of school districts in Kentucky that choose to supplement the state tests with the national Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS), they are not required to and many do not, Winters said. Trigg County is one of the districts that currently requires students to take the CTBS. If Kentucky were to adopt a national norm reference test, the Kentucky Department of Education might augment the test with additional multiple-choice questions if the test were determined to not be comprehensive enough, he said.

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