Introduction

This page offers an introduction to the subject of “assessments” in Kansas education. “Assessment” is education jargon for “test.” On this page we’re not talking so much about your child’s final exam for sophomore English. Rather, it’s about the various tests that students take to gauge the performance of the school system.

A test, by the way, reflects a standard. The Kansas test reflects the Kansas Academic Standards, which are, as the name suggests, standard expectations of what a student should know and be able to do at a given grade level and in a given subject. Schools consult these standards for designing the curriculum, developing tests and other purposes.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s look at the big picture.

The Big 3 Tests

The are three major testing programs in Kansas.

  • Kansas Statewide Assessments
  • National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card . See Kansas page.
  • Measures of Academic Progress (MAP)

No Child Left Behind

We won’t spend a lot of time on this subject but since it is such a widely talked-about topic, it merits a mention here.

No Child Left Behind is a complex federal law with many rules and exceptions to those rules. Two key facts should be pointed out. The first is that it sets a standard that all students test as “proficient” by the year 2011. The second is that states are given great leeway in administering the law

Flexibility in NCLB?

You may be surprised to read that there’s some flexibility in No Child Left Behind. But it’s true. Each state is allowed to determine:

  • How quickly it will achieve the goal of 100 percent proficiency by 2014
  • Which test it will administer to comply with the law.
  • What scores will count as “proficient”

The Kansas Statewide Assessments

“The Kansas Assessment programs (computerized and P&P) are designed to meet the requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind act.” That’s from the CETE, which we’ll get to shortly.

Subject areas

What subjects are tested in the Kansas assessments?

  • Early Reading Assessment — K through 2nd grade
  • Reading: Grades 3-8, and high school
  • Math: Grades 3-8, and high school
  • Science: Grades 4, 7, and 11
  • History and government: Grades 6, 8, and high school
  • Writing: Grades 5, 8, 11
  • KELPA — Kansas English Language Proficiency Assessment. Given to “ELL” (English Language Learners), or in plain words, students whose native tongue is not English.

How accommodating

There’s the garden variety test, which is the default test that every student will take for, say, fifth-grade math. But there are two deviations from that default test.

  • Some students take the same test as everyone else, but ‘with accommodations,” such as being given more time to take the test.
  • Other students are given “alternate assessments.” Who are these students? Generally, they are what used to be widely known as “special education” students. Sometimes they are referred to as students with an IEP, or individualized education plan.
  • These alternative assessments include KAMM, or Kansas Assessment of Modified Measures.

Who creates the assessments?

The Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation (CETE) at the University of Kansas is responsible for developing the tests. CETE gets the bulk of its budget from developing tests in mathematics, science, social studies, reading and writing. CETE takes pride in the fact that its work is done exclusively with Kansas-based experts.

Paper, or Plastic?

Trial tests: Teachers may give, and students may take, practice tests, or (when they are computerized), tutorials. These tests don’t count for anything, but they are supposed to let everyone get familiar with what the test is like—how many questions it has, how it is laid out, that sort of thing.

Pencil or keyboard: There is the KCA, or Kansas Computerized Assessment, and then there’s the old pencil-to-paper that today’s parents might remember. That form is called the P&P, for “pencil and paper.”

A, B, C, or D?

Throw out the old letter grades. The Kansas Assessments use other designations. Each test score (and hence, each school’s score) falls into one of five groups:

Current labels

  • Exemplary
  • Exceeds standard
  • Meets standard
  • Approaches standard
  • Academic warning

Old labels

You will still see the old labels being used.

  • Exemplary
  • Advanced
  • Proficient
  • Basic
  • Unsatisfactory

What do you need to be proficient?

What score (called a “cut-off score”) must a student get to be “proficient,” or to use the new term, meeting standards? It depends on a number of factors, including:

  • Grade level (ranging from 50 to 70 percent)
  • Subject (the cut-off score for reading is generally higher than that for math)
    the subject
  • Whether the test is a “general” test or one for special education students (the minimum cut-off score ranges from a low of 41 to a high of 58)

You can find a list of the cutoff scores in a KSDE memo (PDF) of August 4, 2006. You can also read a description of what skills are needed to meet each score in two Acrobat files on the KSDE web site: reading and mathematics.

The Kansas Report Card

You can find information about the Kansas Report Card on the KSDE site.

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Comments

  • lydia Ewing  On March 6, 2008 at 4:23 pm

    Teachers need more resources and teaching materials to teach text types and test structures.

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