Tuesday, April 19, 2011

SB 1: End-of-course tests likely to count toward student grades (Update)

Scores on state high school tests may soon count toward individual student grades, based on a vote by the Kentucky Board of Education last Wednesday.

In implementing 2009's Senate Bill 1, Kentucky will use end-of-course tests as our method for assessing high school students' reading, mathematics, science, and social studies learning, with new testing slated to begin a little over a year from now, in the spring of 2012.

Last week, KBE voted on an accountability regulation that included this new language:
End of course test results may be used for a percentage of a student’s final grade in the course. If the district or school council’s policies do not include end of course grades in the grading policy or if the end of course grade percentage is less than twenty-five percent (25%), the district shall submit an annual report to the Commissioner showing justification for not using end of course exams for at least twenty-five percent (25%) of a student’s final grade in the course. The report shall be submitted to the Commissioner on or before December 31.
[Update: My colleague Robyn Oatley reports that before the vote, the Board replaced the 25 percent above with 20 percent.]

A few thoughts.

First, this is not a mandate. Schools and districts are not required to count end-of-course tests as 20 25 percent of each student's grade. Instead, they're required to do that or explain to the Commissioner why not. Local officials are still making the choice, even if they have to give reasons for it at the state level.

Second, the subjects to be tested are not named in the regulation. English II, Algebra II, Biology, and U.S. History are likely contenders, since KDE sought vendor proposals for tests of those courses. However, KDE appears to be keeping its option open to either add or subtract from that list.

Third, advocates for students with disabilities and limited English may have concerns about this provision. It can be harder to arrange accommodations on this sort of standardized test. I hope PrichBlog's regular readers will share what they've heard about inclusion issues in the comments.

Finally, using end-of-course scores this way responds to recurring concerns that high school students do not value and focus on state testing because they do not have "skin in the game." Making the scores part of their grades will certainly give students a personal stake in the testing results.


  1. As a retired teacher, I feel using the state test as part of the final grade would certainly help motivate many students to do their best. Unless students can see immediate and practical value in a test, I have seen many students fail to really try. In testing, we assume test results are indicative of what the student actually knows. Not so, unless the student is motivated to do his/her best.

  2. I recognize that some students may be more motivated to do their best when grades are affected. However, as an advocate for students with disabilities, I am concerned that some students' motivation will decline if their efforts to demonstrate growth in content knowledge over the year could be undermined by doing poorly on an end of course exam. Grading policies in K-12 education should reflect how well students are developing in the various school subjects as they prepare to become adults. Including the end of course exam scores on official school transcripts in addition to course grades (rather than incorporated into grades) may serve as a way to motivate all students without taking the wind from the sails of those who struggle with test taking.


Updates and data on Kentucky education!