Standards for Reading, Writing, and Mathematics
Our new standards for these subjects aim at college and career readiness for all students in reading, writing, and mathematics. Along with 45 other states, we've adopted the Common Core State Standards effort. Many of those states are introducing Common Core to their teachers this year, aiming for implementation a year or more away. Kentucky's out ahead on that, with Common Core already rolling in our classrooms for 2011-12.
Standards for Science and Social Studies
The older Kentucky Core Content is still in use, with hopes that multi-state efforts will bear fruit relatively soon. For science, a framework of needed knowledge and skills is now in place, with work beginning to convert that into grade-by-grade standards. Social studies work is not as far along.
Even with those delays, science and social studies classrooms are still part of the urgent push forward. The Common Core State Standards include specific expectations for literacy in history/social studies and literacy in science and technical subjects. To meet those expectations, students will have to move to new levels in each discipline, reading more deeply, writing more effectively, and thinking more rigorously about each subject.
Assessments of those Standards
Students will take new tests this year, all focused on the standards we now have in place, meaning Common Core for reading, writing and mathematics, and Core Content for science and social studies. Those tests will make heavy use of assessment items developed before Common Core, so that the new level of rigor will come from how they are combined and how they are scored.
Two groups of states are working now on shared assessments of Common Core. Kentucky has not yet committed to either the PARCC or the Smarter/Balanced Consortium, which plan to have their designs fully operational by 2015.
For other subjects, new program review rubrics are being launched this fall. Kentucky no longer tests students on the arts, on practical/career topics, and on the sustained writing that goes into a portfolio, but schools remain responsible for providing robust learning opportunities. Program reviews are Kentucky's new systematic approach to reviewing how well schools are meeting those expectations. Details on the program reviews are available here.
Accountability for Assessments, Program Reviews, and Other Indicators
Under Kentucky regulations, schools will be accountable for a combination of factors. "Next Generation Learner" data from the assessments will be a major part of the total, including data on overall achievement, results for students groups often caught in achievement gaps, individual student growth in scores, scores indicating readiness for college and career, and graduation rates. "Next Generation Instructional Programs and Support" and "Next Generation Teachers and Leaders" evidence will also be factors in the total, with program review results included in the Programs and Support component.
For NCLB purposes, Kentucky has asked for a federal waiver to allow us to use the state formula in place of the current Adequate Yearly Progress (or AYP) system.
For each part of the new assessments, we will need new "cut points," specifying the scores that count as work at the proficient level, along with scores for being above and below proficiency.
For state accountability, we will also need cut points for schools and districts, identifying the combined results that qualify for each accountability element.
And for federal accountability, all eyes are on Washington waiting to see how Kentucky's waiver request will be treated.