“We’ll be in a holding pattern,” McGinnis said.
Both houses of the legislature passed a conference bill on the night of Friday, March 13, that will dismantle the CATS test over three years. Testing requirements will be reworked over those three years, and a new test is scheduled to be introduced in fall of 2011.
Although Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear hasn’t signed the bill as of press time, he has indicated that he probably will. The bill will be effective the day it is signed.
The new test will be a more “normative” test that many hope will give educators a better idea of where Kentucky students fall compared to students in other states. Sumner said that even the new test, when it is unrolled three years from now, will still have elements unique to Kentucky.
“This is going to be an interesting transition … there are some changes.” Sumner said. “But for May of this year … we will continue to give reading, math, science and social studies to all of our students that are in those tested grade levels; 3 – 8, grades 10 and 11 depending on the subject area.”
Although the state won’t be looking at writing portfolios, Trigg County students’ writing portfolios will still be scored in house, Sumner said, adding that seniors had to create portfolios as part of their graduation requirements.
Next year, the school system will continue to give the Kentucky Core Content Test, which includes open response questions in reading, math science and social studies, but a new norm reference test will be added in reading and math for grades 3 – 7, said Sumner.
CATS did need work, and critics of CATS have valid concerns regarding the inability to compare the scores of Kentucky students with students in other states, the subjectivity of scoring and the amount of time it took to get test data back, McGinnis said.
The state is going to dismantle the state accountability this year, and according to McGinnis, accountability should have been left in place for the 2008/2009 school year.
The superintendent said some in state leadership wanted “the state assessment to more closely mirror normative reference tests, such as CTBS (California Test of Basic Skills) … CATS is pretty much going to be dismantled over a three year period, but some components of it will remain.”
However, during those three years, the only formal accountability the school system will have will be with the No Child Left Behind exam, and only in the areas of reading and math, said McGinnis, who thinks the NCLB exam is more flawed than the CATS exam.
Once the test is revamped over the next three years, and content standards are changed, it will probably be more streamlined, and what teachers are expected to teach will likely change, Sumner said.
The KIRIS exam was replaced by the CATS exam in 1999. The CATS exam was designed for Kentucky based on Kentucky standards, according to Sumner.