NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 24, 2006

A new study shows that Kentucky's Education Reform Act's (KERA) assessment program, the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS), will fall far short of its stated proficiency standards for many students, says Richard Innes, of the Bluegrass Institute.

According to researchers:

  • With CATS as the standard, many students will fail to reach proficiency while the poorly performing schools they attend could be rewarded.
  • Certain schools appear likely to score high enough to achieve immunity from all CATS sanctions in 2014 despite having unacceptable proficiency rates in certain subjects; in each of these schools, the rate of proficiency averaged across all the CATS-tested subjects is less than 50 percent.
  • Still, Kentucky's testing policies will not sanction any of these schools in 2014 as long as they maintain their anemic academic performance with absolutely no improvement at all.
  • Overall, the CATS program is set to end in mediocrity in 2014.

What Kentucky really needs is an accountability system that strongly encourages rigorous proficiency for all students in each subject and accurately targets real assistance to schools that need them, says Innes:

  • One fairly obvious improvement would be to change the right anchor point for the Assistance Line on CATS Growth Charts.
  • The situation would improve considerably if the right side of each school's progressing zone was re-anchored to match its Goal Line at a point equal to 100 minus the small amount that represents school's known testing errors.
  • After all, the goal is supposed to be reached in 2014 and changing the right anchor point would make that happen.

Furthermore, if CATS remains unchanged, universal proficiency will never be reached by 2014, and Kentucky students deserve better, says Innes.

Source: Richard G. Innes, "Planning for failure: Is the road to 2014 leading toward proficiency for all Kentucky students?" Bluegrass Institute, April 19, 2006.


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