A storm comin': Louisville and state officials, JCPS trying to prepare public for 'ugly' test scores

Borrowed from the Bluegrass Institute website.

(Editor’s note: Due to a technical error, a rough draft of this story was originally posted. This is the latest revision.)

City and state officials, as well as Jefferson County Public Schools System administrators, are rushing to prepare the public for plummeting standardized test scores as Kentucky students get graded under new testing methods.

Kentucky students suddenly will be scored on a test touted as having actual relevance to how well they’re prepared for college.

As opposed to tests that made teachers and administrators look good, we’re guessing.

The state is the first to switch to tests based on “common core state standards.”

Common Core State Standards in English and math have been adopted by 46 states, with the federal government picking up the $360 million tab, according to Education Week magazine.

In Kentucky, the tests are called “Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress” tests, or K-PREP, and are touted as being far tougher than the discarded CATS Testing our kids endured for the past 10 years.

Insiders close to JCPS executives tell Insider Louisville state administrators are expecting “ugly” scores under K-PREP. So ugly, they’ve delayed releasing them to the public.

To counter anticipated public sentiment and media blowback, system officials including JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens and  Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday, met today with  a small group of business leaders, media executives and Greater Louisville Inc. officials to explain the tests and why they anticipate poor student performance scores.

The group also included representatives from General Electric, a major donor to the school system.

Several sources present said officials, including Metro Mayor Greg Fischer, asked news directors to temper their reporting.

But Chris Poynter, Fisher’s spokesman, said there was no attempt to shape reporting about the tests, only to explain what may seem like a dramatic downgrading of parent perceptions about their schools.

“The problem is, parents who think (their kids’) school is really good are going to see these scores, then they’re going to wonder how good their school really is,” Poynter said.

Calls to JCPS media relations were not returned.

But longtime Jefferson County Board of Education member Carol Haddad said no one in JCPS has seen the scores yet. “We know anytime there’s a switch (to a new test), scores drop. But now we’ll have a benchmark to know what to teach to better prepare students for college.”

Sources close to JCPS said the test scores originally were scheduled to be released this week. Instead, JCPS officials won’t see them till next month, with a public release scheduled now for the end of October.

Another larger presentation about the tests is scheduled for tomorrow morning at the Marriott Downtown Louisville at Third and Market streets. About 300 businesspeople are scheduled to attend, Poynter said.

We found this on the Kentucky School Board Assocation website, so clearly Holliday has been preparing educators for stiff public criticism. There’s even a helpful video that tells educators “how to talk to media about the test scores.” We’re thinking, “Speak slowly, and don’t use big words in case reporters are products of the public school system.”

Here are the expected performance drops:

Reading Proficiency:

Elementary: 76 percent in 2011, could fall 36 percent

 Middle: 70 percent, may decline by 30 percent

 High: 65 percent, could drop by 25 percent

 Math Proficiency:

 Elementary: 73 percent, may fall 37 percent

Middle: 65 percent, down possibly 29 percent

 High: 46 percent, could decline 10 percent

In his email, Holliday explained the potential decline and urged local educators to develop a solid understanding of the overall issue before they receive the schools’ data in the next few weeks.

“As I have shared in presentations and webcasts over the past few months, Kentucky’s adoption of the Common Core Standards in English/language arts and mathematics, coupled with the new Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress assessments tied to those standards, will lead to proficiency rates among students that are lower than what we’ve seen previously in the Kentucky Core Content Tests,” the commissioner said.

“Although these data represent a broad view of potential dips in proficiency percentages, educators in schools and districts can get a sense of how high schools will perform by looking at the percentage of students meeting the Council on Postsecondary Education’s ACT benchmarks. The higher the percentage of students meeting those benchmarks, the higher the likely overall rates of proficiency.”