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A primer on the new state testing in schools

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If you have a student in your home, he or she next week will take the new core standard tests. Here’s what you need to know.

By Todd Martin

Kentucky is moving into a new standard of statewide testing this spring as part of the Common Core Standards that have been adopted by 45 states and the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Kentucky was the first state to adopt the standards in Feb. 2010.

These new standards, the Kentucky Core Academic Standards, are more rigorous and better aligned with the skills needed in the modern workplace.

The English/language arts and mathematics standards were the first outlined and were taught this year.

All students in Kentucky are now aligned to take five tests, although not each test each year, that are part of the state accountability tests.

Juniors take the ACT college entrance test, sophomores take the PLAN test that measures college-readiness in English, math, reading and science, eighth-graders take the EXPLORE test, which also measures college readiness in the same areas.

Then there are the two new areas of testing with the new standards: End-of-course exams and the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP).

What are End-of-course exams?

End-of-course exams included for state accountability are given in high school in English II, Algebra II, Biology and U.S. History, and in Shelby County they currently count as 10 percent of the student’s final grade. The state suggested 20 percent, and Shelby County’s plan is to gradually work the percentage up to 20.

The exams include multiple choice, short answer and open response. Each section has between 35 and 38 multiple-choice questions that can be administered in two 45-minute sessions. The short answer and open response question will consist of 1-3 questions that can be administered in 45 minutes.

The exams provide alignment to state and national college readiness and common core and show the progress of a student, school and district.

What is K-PREP like?

These new tests are given in grades 3-8 to gauge proficiency in reading, math, science, social studies and writing. The tests provide the ability to compare students to each other and to determine how well students have learned the skills. In Shelby County, the focus is on mastery of skills.

Part of the tests are purchased and built to be used to compare nationally, while the other portion of the test is customized for Kentucky.

The assessments will consist of multiple choice, short answer and open response questions.

The tests align with common core standards and show the progress of a student, school and district.

When are the tests?

The EXPLORE and PLAN tests are still given in the fall and the ACT test remains in March for juniors. K-PREP tests are administered during the final 14 days of the school year, and end-of-course exams occur when the material has been covered. In Shelby County, end-of-course exams began this week and, along with students taking Advanced Placement tests, end on the last day of school. K-PREP tests start for elementary schools on Monday and end Friday and middle and high school testing is May 21-29.

Will there be writing tests?

Yes, for grades 5-6, 8, and 10-11. Those tests will include on-demand writing and editing/mechanics.

How will results be reported?

Each school will receive individual student and school-based reports. Those reports will include national percentile scores from that portion of the test, and a ranking of novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished from a combination of the national and Kentucky-specific portions of the test. End-of-course assessments, which are provided by ACT, can link performance to national results.