NEIHOF: Here’s how to prepare for K-PREP

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Kentucky’s new educational assessment program replaces everything in the past and factors in almost every standardized test a student takes.

By James Neihof

We are preparing for the annual state assessments in May – but it’s out with the old and in with the new.

The new state system is called Unbridled Learning: College/Career-Readiness for All. It takes into account all areas of a school’s work and even replaces No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements because of a federal waiver. That means Shelby County Public Schools will have a single set of goals to meet.

I am excited – and anxious – about the changes.

We had been working along toward the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS), which focused on student proficiency and a 140-point scale and have now been switching gears toward Unbridled Learning, which uses a 100-point scale.

Charts in the School Board Room constantly reminded us where we are and where we need to be. Now Senate Bill 1’s changes have a stronger focus on college and career readiness and ensuring success after high school.

I agree with that and hope you do as well. We even have a BIG Goal of 100 percent high school seniors being college/career ready in 2016. We believe we can do it because of the instructional and awareness programs under way at all grade levels for students to see and understand the big picture of their future.

The CATS test is no more. The new CATS will be K-PREP (Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress), which will be the main assessment to measure how well students have learned content based on academic standards.

Other assessments will be end -of-course exams, EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT. These combined tests show whether students are on course to graduate college-ready.

So when are the tests given?

Official dates for K-PREP are:

·       Elementary – May 14-18 (grades 3, 4, 5).

·       Middle – May 21, 23, 24, 25, 29.

·       High – May 21, 23, 24, 25, 29 (grades 8, 10, 11).

·       High – May 7-31 (Advanced Placement, end-of-course).

The ACT is administered to all juniors in March. On-demand writing assessments are administered in the spring for all grade levels.

PLAN and EXPLORE tests are given in September. K-PREP test results will be available near the beginning of the next school year.

I want also to emphasize that the state test is far more important personally to each student now because the high school state accountability and the student’s final exam both come from the End of Course (EOC) exam.

So what can parents and the community do to help students?

·       Don’t schedule appointments, trips or other interruptions during testing.

·       Encourage students to review beforehand and do his/her best on testing day.

·       Remind students of the importance of reading directions carefully and not rushing through a test.

·       Review results with students. Praise success and talk about what can be done for areas in need of improvement.

·       Remind students about the importance of test scores now and the impact they can have on his or her future.

K-PREP is the main component of Unbridled Learning and is based on many measures of student performance on various tests. Points will be awarded based on how well a school performs on each measure:

·       Achievement – Just as in the past, scores will be labeled as novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished. Kentucky’s goal is 100 percent proficiency. At high school, achievement is based on end-of-course exams and an on-demand writing test.

·       Gap – Schools will compare test results for African-American, Hispanic, Native American, special education, low-income and limited English proficiency students...combined into one gap group...to results for other students not in those categories.

·       Growth – A statistical program will measure how much students’ scores are improving from one year to the next.

·       College/Career Readiness – Schools and districts will provide information about how many students are ready for college and/or careers, based on test scores and certifications earned.

·       Graduation Rate – Schools and districts will report how many students graduate within four years of high school.

Overall district scores are ranked in order; overall school scores are ranked in order by level – elementary, middle and high. Based on where they are in the order, schools and districts will fall into one of four main classifications:

·       Distinguished – the top 10 percent of districts or schools from a particular level (90th percentile).

·       Proficient – in the top 30 percent of districts or schools from a particular level (70th percentile).

·       Progressing – schools/districts meeting their AMOs, but not designated as Distinguished or Proficient.

·       Needs Improvement – the remaining schools/districts.

We definitely are aiming for the Proficient level but we are striving for the Distinguished mark. Our vision is like that of Terry Holliday, Kentucky’s commissioner of education, who said, “Every child [will be] proficient and prepared for success, which means all students graduate from high school college/career-ready and prepared for the future.”

So join us as we prepare for K-PREP...encourage students to do their best on the tests...support our teachers as they are committed to being accountable for student-learning...be proud of your public school system that is goal-oriented and on a path of continuous improvement.


James Neihof can be reached at james.neihof@shelby.kyschools.us.