The Kentucky Department of Education says it will drop the written portion of the state’s End-of-Course Exams—called the constructed-response questions—in its accountability system, which officials expected will save money and time.
But some are concerned the change, effective this year, is a step back from Kentucky’s recent education reforms.
KDE says students will still take both the multiple choice and written constructed-response sections that are part of the End-of-Course exams, which are taken in English II, Algebra II, Biology and U.S. History. But now the assessment of that section will no longer be the responsibility of the ACT testing company.
Instead, local school districts will be able to choose how the written responses are factored into a student’s grade. KDE recommends these tests count for up to 20 percent of a student’s final grade in the four subjects tested, but the ACT’s recent technical problems have resulted in KDE allowing school districts an optional pass this year.
In a written statement, KDE says “moving the constructed response to local administration increases student motivation, security and instructional value by providing teachers and students feedback on how they performed on the constructed-response questions. Scoring by the test vendor ACT did not provide this feedback and slowed the return of EOC results to schools.”
Last year, the state didn’t release state and district accountability results until November.
But Dick Innes, of the conservative-leaning policy group Bluegrass Institute, says this means schools will measure that portion of the test in different ways.
“So the testing conditions have become non-standardized for the constructed response part and we aren’t even going to count those results in some places and we are in others, so that’s not standard.,” he says.
Innes says a few school districts have already told him they would be assessing the constructed-response section in different ways.
KDE informed school districts earlier this year about the changes, saying the state will monitor how local districts build the constructive-responses into final grades and will “determine if additional changes are necessary to ensure constructed response items are part of local assessments.”
KDE officials also say the move will save $2 million. The state’s two year contract with ACT, which ends in June 2014, was originally worth $9.3 million.
Innes further says this could be a warning sign to other testing companies and groups, specifically the two consortia—Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium and the Partnership for the Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC)—responsible for developing the new common-core tests that states will have the option to adopt in coming years.
“If we can’t get that [timely, useful testing results] from ACT, which is certainly a very good testing company with an excellent reputation, if they can’t do it why would we think the rest of the testing industry is likely to do much better?” Innes says.
Some lawmakers showed concern about the decision in a statement released by the Bluegrass Institute.
“To insure we remain on target, I am requesting a hearing about the drop of the constructed-response questions and a review of the CCSS [common-core state standards] adopted by KDE at the next convening of the Interim Joint Education Committee,” said State Rep. Addia Wuchner, who is a member of the Kentucky House Education Committee.
KDE further writes that the switch to local administration for the End-of-Course Exam would allow schools to move to computer-based testing where they could get results more quickly. But the ACT and KDE have halted test-taking online twice in the past week after experience technical issues online.
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