Educators discuss state testing changes, other issues
FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ/Press Release) – The final administration of the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) assessment came last spring, members of the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) School Curriculum Assessment and Accountability Council (SCAAC) were told during their July 20 meeting.
Since all content areas have been developed for new Kentucky Academic Standards (KAS), the end-of-year assessments will now be referred to as the Kentucky Summative Assessment, said Associate Commissioner Rhonda Sims of KDE’s Office of Assessment and Accountability.
Sims was joined by Jennifer Stafford, director of KDE’s Division of Assessment and Accountability Support, to provide accountability and assessment updates to SCAAC members.
School and district staff made extraordinary efforts in administering 2020-2021 assessments, Stafford said.
Instead of canceling the statewide assessment for the 2020-2021 school year, the U.S. Department of Education (USED) advised states to pursue other assessment flexibilities, including administering a shortened version of the statewide assessment.
KDE’s spring 2021 testing plan included flexible test windows, a reduction in the time for assessment administration, where possible, and the opportunity to bring in small groups of full-time virtual students for an in-person assessment.
The state offered seven total ACT administrations, as well as a shortened state assessment that was based on previously administered test items. The shortened assessment took approximately 60 minutes to complete and still measured the KAS, Stafford explained.
Not only was the K-PREP scaled-down, but it also was offered online for the first time. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, KDE conducted successful online field tests that assessed content area standards. Grades 3-8 and grade 10 tested in both reading and mathematics. Grades 5, 8 and 11 were field-tested in editing and mechanics, and on-demand writing.
“We took those learnings from the online administration and applied those to spring 2021 and had a successful administration,” Stafford said. “… We got a lot of positive feedback from both our test administrators as well as the students.”
Last spring, KDE also had a successful social studies field test for grades 5, 8 and 11, with nearly 54,000 students participating from 116 of Kentucky’s 171 public school districts.
Students who required a paper test still had that accommodation for all testing, Stafford said.
While assessments still occurred, USED offered states flexibility for accountability and for identifying schools for Comprehensive Support and Improvement (CSI), Targeted Support and Improvement (TSI) and Additional Targeted Support and Improvement (ATSI) based on data from the 2020-2021 school year. Schools that previously were identified as either TSI, ATSI or CSI were required to remain under those statuses, with KDE continuing to provide technical assistance and support.
As for public reporting, USED maintained the requirement that all data normally required on state and local School Report Cards, including the information and data on spring 2021 assessments, continue to be reported.
The information will include both participation and performance results from the 2021 assessments, Stafford said.
“We generally get to about 98% of our (student) population tested on a regular basis,” she said. “We did not meet that threshold this year. It’s going to be important to include the participation of our students within state reporting and within our local reporting when we’re talking about performance results.”
Other items that will be in the publicly reported data include graduation rate and results of the first Quality of School Climate and Safety survey for students.
All publicly reported data will be released on the School Report Card later this fall.
Looking ahead to the 2021-2022 school year, Stafford said she does not expect to see waivers from USED and, “fully anticipates having both assessments and accountability.”
Sims added KDE’s Office of Assessment and Accountability staff are working to see if the next iteration of the Kentucky Summative Assessment can be shorter than normal years, similar to the K-PREP that students took last spring.
“If we can get what we need and take less time, everyone will be excited about that,” she said.
Council members commended KDE staff for their work around assessments and accountability throughout the pandemic. Members also urged the department to continue soliciting feedback from the state’s education community.
“Your group listened and I think that’s blatantly obvious,” said Teresa Nicholas, SCAAC member and Pulaski County director of curriculum, instruction, assessment and technology. “… We know that you listen because of changes that come out from that, but also of all the committees you have your hands in or groups that you ask to respond.”
Pikeville Independent Superintendent David Trimble said no one was excited about adding assessments to last school year, but because of the partnerships built with districts, they never lost trust in the department.
“(KDE) always tries to communicate with us and you have the best of intentions of using assessment for what it’s for, and that’s to determine where we are and where we’re going next,” he said.
Advancing Education Project
SCAAC members also were provided with an overview of the work of the Kentucky Coalition for Advancing Education (KCAE), which is part of a project that began last fall when Education Commissioner Jason E. Glass joined the department.
The KCAE is a part of a larger advancing education project, explained KDE Chief Performance Officer Karen Dodd. The project utilizes effective listening techniques and allows KDE to co-create tools and resources with diverse stakeholders to meet the needs of students, families, educators and community leaders by changing how education is delivered in the Commonwealth.
Last October, KDE opened a community survey to gather ideas and thoughts from school officials, educators and other partners across the state to help guide strategy on what the future of education should look like in Kentucky.
The survey asked what KDE, districts and educators should:
- KEEP Doing: Things we value, that bring us meaning and pride, the “right” work.
- STOP Doing: Things that are not of value, that don’t have meaning or purpose, or are antithetical to our values as a Commonwealth.
- START Doing: Things we should aspire toward, work to put in place, build capacity around.
“We got some good input on that,” Dodd said. “However, because it was in the fall of 2020, you might imagine, it was very heavily based on how teaching and learning were going during the pandemic.”
Although the department developed themes to work with, Dodd said staff felt the need to seek more feedback, which led to the development of the virtual Commissioner’s Listening Tour and empathy interviews.
In all, KDE hosted 11 stops throughout the state, including one completely in Spanish. More than 1,000 individuals participated and provided input that would help guide the department’s work.
A group of 62 Kentuckians representing various facets of the state’s education community then accepted an invitation to serve on the KCAE to develop a report that details the current state of education and help create a vision for public education in the Commonwealth.
“The ultimate goal will be a vision document that will be released this fall that will point toward a future direction for education in the Commonwealth that is built on the voices and aspirations of Kentuckians,” Glass said.
Members of the coalition recently wrapped up the first phase of their work and have begun developing a description of the future state of education and will produce a pair of reports summarizing their findings in the fall at the Kentucky Education Summit scheduled for Nov. 1-2 in Louisville.
The summit will include a report on student mental health from KDE’s Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council, with data being compiled from upcoming student-led mental health roundtables.
The mental-health roundtables are a partnership between the Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, KDE, the Commissioner’s Student Advisory Council, the Division of Family Resource and Youth Services Centers, Kentucky Educational Cooperatives and the Department for Behavioral Health, Development and Intellectual Disabilities.
The events will take place mostly in September, with one event to be held in each of the eight different educational cooperative regions. The events will include closed-session and peer-facilitated roundtables, where attendees will be able to confidentially share stories about what challenges they have experienced and are expecting, resources that are needed, recommendations and more.