Monday, March 9, 2009

Comparing House and Senate testing bills

Both Senate and House have revised their respective proposals for changing statewide assessments. In their current forms, SB 1 and HB 508 agree that it is time for substantial changes, but disagree on important specifics.

Testing schedule starting 2011-12

Senate: five of last eight days of school, with scores back in 60 days
House: five of last fourteen days, with scores back in 75 days

Testing methods starting 2011-12
S: multiple-choice and writing prompts
H: constructed-response, multiple-choice, and writing prompts

Writing test schedule starting 2011-12
S: once in elementary, middle, and high
H: grades 4-7 and 9-10

2009-10 and 2010-11 testing
S: CATS in reading, math, and science
H: CATS in all subjects but without writing portfolio accountability

Program reviews
S: districts reviews of arts (annually) and career programs (no schedule), with possible contract audits of district reviews
H: districts reviews arts, career, and writing programs (all annually) with KDE review every other year, more systematic audits needed, and reviews discussed in administrators’ evaluations.

Parent reports and individual plans for students with deficiencies
S: grade 3-8 reading and math reports and plans
H: grade 5 reading and math reports and plans

Achievement gaps
S: schools set gap targets by February 1 and gap reduction plans by April 1 each year
H: schools set gap targets and plans by October 1 each even-numbered year

Added House Provisions
HB 508 contains steps not found in SB 1:
  • State standards to be shorter, clearer, and aligned with college readiness
  • EPSB to ensure that future teachers develop skills in writing process, classroom assessment, and instructional strategies to help all students make progress
  • CPE, KBE, and KDE to plan steps to halve college remediation rates by 2014
  • KBE to have the option of substituting end-of-course exams for some high school testing
  • KBE to ban inappropriate testing preparation that interferes with regular instruction
Areas where Senate and House are the same or similar:
  • New state goal of preparing students to perform in the arts
  • Reading and mathematics tests in grades 3-8 and once in high school
  • Science and social studies tests once at each level
  • Writing portfolios for classroom use, but not state accountability
  • Arts and humanities and career studies not tested
  • Explore, Plan, and ACT readiness tests continued
  • Longitudinal scores to track individual students
  • Both norm-referenced reports and criterion-referenced reports from state tests


  1. What is the rarionale behind HB508 having schools set gap targets and plans by October 1 each even-numbered year? Are there consequences for non-compliance? Are there rewards for reaching goals? Just how will schools be held accountable for closing gaps in achievement for the various subgroups?

  2. Schedule first.

    Current law requires gap targets by February 1 and plans by April 1 each odd-numbered year--meaning the spring, using a state analysis of gaps due November 1 of even numbered year. That's the heart of 2002's SB 168 on achievement gaps.

    That schedule has always been silly. Schools get all the other data in mid-September. KDE asked for November 1 just in case they had a problem with the gap information, and then the rest of the schedule got pushed out for the holidays and the possibility of snow. Doing a two year plan gave schools a meaningful block of time to carry out change strategies, and also sounded like the usual way Kentucky sets two year goals.

    In the current bills, the House keeps the process of doing a plan every other year, but calls for the work to get done faster. The Senate calls for a plan every year, but allows a lot longer to get it done.

    More in a minute on consequences.

  3. On paper, there are real consequences. Both new bills keep the gap consequences enacted by Senate Bill 168. Under SB 168, a school that misses a gap target must get the local superintendent's approval for its plans for extended school services and professional development money. A school that misses the same target twice must get the commissioner of education's approval of its entire school improvement plan.

    In the real world, I'm not sure the consequences on paper exist. 2006 was the first year that plans could have gone to the Commissioner. KDE told districts the plans didn't even need to be sent in, unless the district itself wanted KDE to take a look. Where the law called for superintendents to lose their final say when a school missed a target twice, KDE decided superintendents should instead keep their final say. Where the law told the Commissioner to step up, he chose to step aside.

    That policy may have changed that since 2006. I haven't asked. If I ask, and they say the law on the books still isn't the law they enforce, I don't have any good idea of how I can respond constructively. Until I can see that second step clearly, I've been staying out of the battle.

  4. I haven't seen the Achievement Gap bill have any real consequences on schools. Districts have allowed schools to report on only some gaps, not all gaps as the law requires.

    NCLB has done much more for for the accountability of the "gaps" because at least all subgroups have to be reported out and all subgroups are held to the same proficienty standards.


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