Education groups will compare student test results in state's absence

Three Kentucky education advocacy groups say they will prepare and publish their own statewide index of student academic performance to fill a void left by state lawmakers during the next three years.

Officials with the Council for Better Education, the Kentucky Association of School Councils and the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence said Wednesday that they will issue a report each fall on academic performance at the school, district and statewide levels, based on statewide testing.

The first report will come out later this year, based on statewide student tests that started last week at some schools.

Officials of the three groups said their new "transitional index" is intended to fill a three-year reporting gap left by the Kentucky General Assembly's recent abolition of the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, known as CATS.

The legislature's plan calls for a new statewide testing program starting in 2012. There will be no CATS testing during the interim, but Kentucky students will be tested annually to meet requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

During the 2009-11 period, the Kentucky Department of Education will release student scores but publish no accountability index to provide a snapshot of student progress.

The three groups said they want to fill that gap.

"School districts and the public have been used to seeing a report each year on how schools are progressing, and we want to provide them with that information," said Rhonda Harmon, executive director of the Kentucky Association of School Councils. "Also, a lot of schools and districts had told us that they were going to figure an index for themselves, and we want to provide a service so they won't have to do that."

The new index will not measure writing portfolios, arts and practical living because those have been dropped from statewide testing.

Still, Prichard Committee executive director Robert Sexton said the report should provide "a valuable snapshot each year" for the public.

"Our people will coordinate totally with the Kentucky Department of Education, and the department will provide the test scores which we will use," Sexton said. "We think the public, parents and teachers expect this information, and it's important that they get it."