Friday, April 06, 2001

Ky. ponders new school-test standards

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

        DANVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Board of Education is pondering whether to adopt new standards for judging how students perform on annual school assessments.

        The performance categories of “novice,” “ apprentice,” “proficient” and “distinguished” are intended to define the level of student knowledge in each subject and at each grade level tested.

        The standards, unrevised since they were originally set in 1992 and 1993, have “become almost indelible” in the public consciousness, John Poggio, one of the board's testing consultants, said Thursday.

        Yet, significant changes have been made in the testing system itself. “Questions are being eliminated and new questions are being brought on. ... We need to recognize it is a new assessment,” said Mr. Poggio.

        The chairwoman of the state board, Helen Mountjoy of Utica, said whether to adopt new standards is a big decision that will consume much of the board's time for the next several weeks. The board might decide in June.

        The revised standards being considered were developed over more than a year by 1,651 Kentucky teachers. They drafted written descriptions of each performance level.

        Actual student work was examined and reclassified. In most subjects tested, the percentage of students classified as “proficient” or “distinguished” went up at each level — elementary, middle and high school — when the proposed standards were used. But the percentage of students dropping to “novice” also increased in many cases.

        “It kind of looks like it clears out the middle,” Ms. Mountjoy said. The “significant movement at both ends” has big implications for how students are taught, she said.

        Conservative critics of the system question whether the board and the Kentucky Department of Education want to bend their own rules to beat the clock.

        “It's an opportunity that's being handed to the board to inflate the numbers,” said Martin Cothran, a spokesman for The Family Foundation. If scoring to this point has not been accurately reflecting student performance, “I'd like a public admission of that,” Mr. Cothran said.


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