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Results will reflect changes in school tests

Statewide student test results for the No Child Left Behind program and the Kentucky Core Content Test will be released Wednesday morning, and parents and others who have followed test scores over previous years will notice some major differences.

The old Commonwealth Accountability Testing System — popularly known as CATS — is gone, having been dropped by the state General Assembly last spring. To replace it, lawmakers mandated the creation of a new state school testing and accountability system based on more focused curriculum standards. But that program won't be ready until the 2011-12 school year.

Wednesday's results are from tests that Kentucky students took last spring under an interim testing system that will be used until the new program is in place. Under the interim system, the Kentucky Department of Education will not produce an index score for each school as it did in previous years.

However, the Herald-Leader plans to produce an index based on the state's old formula. The newspaper plans to post the data in a searchable database at Kentucky.com, but not before 12:01 a.m. Wednesday. Results are embargoed until then.

Since some subjects that were tested in previous years were not included in the tests given last spring, the results being reported Wednesday cannot be directly compared to previous years. However, the Herald-Leader will provide a bridge to previous years for comparisons.

Rather than one overall test score for each school, as in previous years, the state will report the percentages of students who reached novice, apprentice, proficient or distinguished levels in each subject area. The information will be reported for the entire school and also for various subgroups.

No Child Left Behind data will look the same as in previous years. Under that federal program, so-called Title I schools — those with large numbers of low-income students — can face sanctions if they fail to make "adequate yearly progress" goals for two straight years. That's unchanged.

But this year for the first time, non-Title I schools that don't meet adequate yearly progress will be eligible for assistance from the state.

"People should think of this year as a whole new, interim ball game," said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education. "We'll be doing this kind of data release until 2012.

"What's going to be different is the state testing data, Kentuckians have been used to seeing overall accountability scores, but they will not see that this year. They've been used to seeing some extrapolation of a school's goals for the state system. They will not see that.

"There will be no more growth charts, which basically were a representation of how far a school had to go between now and 2014 to reach a score of 100 on the accountability index," Gross said. "But that index doesn't exist anymore; those goals don't exist anymore."

Also missing will be scores from the state on arts and humanities, practical living and writing portfolios. They were taken out of the testing program under the legislation passed by the General Assembly.

"I think that what parents should look for is overall school information," Gross said. "You can see whether a school has made all its goals for No Child Left Behind.

"For the Kentucky Core Content Test, you should look at the percentage of kids performing at each one of those levels (novice, apprentice, proficient, distinguished). If there are more kids in a school performing at higher levels than at lower levels, that's a good sign."

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