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Changes for state education testing coming next month

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New guidelines will be better tied to classroom work

By Todd Martin

When Senate Bill 1 passed last year, those in the state education system knew change was on the way.

Now that it’s almost time for those standards to be released, educators still don't know much about what’s coming.

The new math and English standards were put together by the National Governors Association and the Council of Chief State School Officers, but before they can be implemented in Kentucky, they must be approved by the Kentucky Board of Education, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board.

Those three are set to meet on Feb. 9 to approve the new standards.

All that has been leaked so far is bits and pieces of the new guidelines.

“I think an agreement is already in place,” Shelby County Public Schools Superintendent James Neihof said. “What we do know is that the new standards will be fewer, higher and clearer than before.

“It was going to take 20 or 21 years to teach the standards we were charged with for 2012. What they’ve done is looked at what other countries are doing. They have fewer standards, but they’re more in depth.

"We want to make sure that kids are clearer on those fundamental standards whether it’s math, science or English.”

Kentucky, along with 44 other states, is trying to establish a better basis of comparison nationwide.

“What they’re doing is trying to get all the states to agree,” Neihof said. “Right now we only have Kentucky’s standards and Kentucky’s tests, and we’re trying to measure that against other states who are using different standards and different tests.

"With all the talk about competing in a global economy, how are we supposed to understand where are students are in our county if we can’t compare our assessments against the same standards?”

For 2009-2010 and 2010-2011 school years, students will continue to take the CATS tests and stay on the same standards, switching to the new standards and new tests for the 2011-2012 school year.

“Next year is going to be very trying,” Neihof said. “We’ll be working with one set of standards [the old standards] while trying to teach our educators a second set of standards.”

The biggest change, along with the dismissal of the CATS tests, will be the students’ incentives for the tests.

CATS tests haven’t counted toward students’ grades in the past, but that isn’t likely to be the case with the new standards.

“All we can tell is the new test will be tied to students’ end-of-the-year exams,” Neihof said. “That should give them a better incentive to do well.”