Sunday, February 22, 2009

Kentucky assessment and the federal $650 million

To get Kentucky’s share of federal fiscal stabilization funding, we must improve our assessments. The stimulus bill requires the Governor’s assurance that Kentucky will improve our testing through “activities such as those described in section 6112(a)” of the ESEA. In turn, that section specifies state efforts:
(1) To enable States (or consortia of States) to collaborate with institutions of higher education, other research institutions, or other organizations to improve the quality, validity, and reliability of State academic assessments beyond the requirements for [NCLB] assessments.
(2) To measure student academic achievement using multiple measures of student academic achievement from multiple sources.
(3) To chart student progress over time.
(4) To evaluate student academic achievement through the development of comprehensive academic assessment instruments, such as performance and technology-based academic assessments.
In the past, competitive Title VI grants have encouraged states to do those things, but the stimulus bill provides a much stronger incentive.

(Section 6112 of the ESEA is here, and the initials are short for the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, the federal legislation that includes Title 1 and some other education efforts. To read the stimulus bill, I recommend downloading the conference committee version of the bill here. Search for "Sec. 14005" to see the required assurances.)


  1. Susan,
    All of these ESEA requirements in Section 6112 seem pretty broad. To what extent has Kentucky already fulfilled these requirements? Are there any points which the state will have to reassure the federal government it will work on to secure stimulus funding?

  2. Yeah, the longer I look at this language, the less I understand it.

    As a first reply, here's a problem I see in the way this was done.

    6112's list works in its original context. There, it effectively says: "If a state thinks its test needs improving, and if the idea is one of the things on this list, we'd like to hear about it, and maybe we'll pay for some of the work." But that means a state could decide it doesn't need an improvement, and it means a state could choose just one of the four issues to work on.

    When the same language gets pulled into the stimulus bill, it sounds like every state has to improve its test on all four items. That applies even if the state has no improvement ideas. It applies even if the state thinks its test is currently great.

    Federal legislation is full of little thickets and thorns, and this feels like another example.

  3. As a second reply, let me try actually answering Peter's question about the four items.

    I think Kentucky does have room to make improvements on all four. Some examples:

    Under 1-collaboration, we could have high school standards that CPE agrees match college readiness needs. That's being discussed right now in the testing debate.

    Under 2-multiple measurements, we could count the "benchmark" testing that superintendents want for use in between state accountability tests.

    Under 3-longitudinal,we could create reports that summarize how student performance in one grade is related to how they did the year before. I don't entirely want a "value added" system like that.

    Under-(4), it would be wonderful to have an option for doing on-demand writing at keyboards. My kids are building lots of skill at that, and far less at organizing ideas in longhand.

    Mind, I'm not saying we should do all those things, and I'm especially not saying we should do them all fast, and I'm not even sure it's possible to complete any of them in the 28 months the stimulus will last. I'm only saying there's stuff we could do on each one.

  4. Suppose someone filed a bill saying Kentucky will now use Iowa's standards as our standards and the multiple-choice only Iowa Test of Basic Skills as our only test. I think that might count as a step forward on item 3, about longitudinal results, but it would be a giant step in the wrong direction on 1, 2, and 4. I think that wouldn't fly under these rules. If so, the rules do have some bite, and do put some limits on what states can do.


Updates and data on Kentucky education!