Kentucky test results offer glimpse into how Common Core assessments will affect Georgia and other states

Noteworthy scores out of Kentucky, the first state to introduce tests explicitly tied to the Common Core State Standards.

Kentucky is part of the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, a consortium of 23 states including Georgia that is developing a common set of k-12 assessments in English and math grounded in what it takes to be ready for college and careers.  Those assessments will be ready for states to administer during the 2014-15 school year

While the new Kentucky tests are not the PARCC tests, they are closely aligned and thus seen as a harbinger of things to come.

And what’s coming will initially be disappointing,  although expected. Testing experts say that a conversion to a new test usually brings a drop in scores.

Education Week reports that the  share of Kentucky students scoring “proficient” or better in reading and math dropped by roughly a third or more in both elementary and middle school the first year the tests were given.

According to the story:

Kentucky in 2010 was the first state to adopt the common core in English/language arts and mathematics, and the assessment results released last week for the 2011-12 school year are being closely watched by school officials and policymakers nationwide for what they may reveal about how the common standards may affect student achievement in coming years. So far, 46 states have adopted the English/language arts common standards; 45 states have done so in math.

“What you’re seeing in Kentucky is a predictor of what you’re going to see in the other states, as the assessments roll out next year and the year after,” said Gene Wilhoit, the executive director of the Washington-based Council of Chief State School Officers, which spearheaded the common-core initiative along with the National Governors Association. Mr. Wilhoit was also previously Kentucky’s education commissioner.

The drop in Kentucky’s scores conform to what state education officials had expected: that students in grades 3-8 taking the new, more-rigorous Kentucky Performance Rating of Education Progress, or K-PREP, would not be able to reach their achievement levels of prior years. Kentucky began implementing the common standards in the 2011-12 school year.

The biggest drop came at the elementary level. On the previous Kentucky Core Content Tests, 76 percent of elementary students scored proficient or higher in reading in the 2010-11 school year. That percentage plunged to 48 percent for the K-PREP results in the 2011-12 school year, a drop-off in proficiency of more than a third. In 2010-11, 73 percent of elementary students were proficient or better in math, but that fell to 40.4 percent. That drop represents a 45 percent decline in the share of proficient students.

When new tests are introduced, states can expect scores to fall in most cases, said Douglas McRae, a retired assessment designer who helped build California’s testing system. “When you change the measure, change the tests, then you interrupt the continuity of trend data over time. That’s the fundamental thing that happens,” he said.

K-PREP does not represent the final, polished version of common-core assessments. The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC, and the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium are designing the tests that most states have signed on to for gauging students’ mastery of the common standards nationwide beginning in the 2014-15 school year.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

25 comments Add your comment

Looking for the truth

November 8th, 2012
3:09 pm

Let the blame for lower scores begin! Who’s first under the bus? Teachers? Curriculum designers? Administrators? I can’t wait to see!


November 8th, 2012
3:28 pm

Now those pesky, small little gains Georgia has made will be wiped clean and we can all start from the bottom again….and the for-profit charters will have plenty of clueless parents to sell their programs to. Does anyone else see a conspiracy?


November 8th, 2012
3:51 pm

It’s not a surprise to us at all that math results would drop precipitously. It’s not the math that’s harder, it’s the weird way Common Core and the testing consortia try to increase complexity by lumping together disjointed math principles.


November 8th, 2012
4:08 pm


Follow the money.

Mom of 3

November 8th, 2012
4:15 pm

Seriously- does it seem weird to anyone that people are spending time and money chasing test scores that mean nothing? In the mean time the actual classroom is suffering. So sad that so called educators and even this blog have lost focus on students. Reading this article does nothing for a parent. Means absolutely nothing…

Just Sayin.....

November 8th, 2012
5:00 pm

It’s not the math that’s harder, it’s the weird way Common Core and the testing consortia try to increase complexity by lumping together disjointed math principles.

This ^. It remind me of a certain financial professional certification test I just took (again). With absolutely no idea of what to expect (there are no sample tests or study guides… just the organizations study material), it takes a while to understand the gyrations that these test makers go through to make the test more complex. They do it with double negative wording, with massive amounts of data lumped together so that you have to derive inputs to even understand the problem, with nebulous definitions of when they include values in other values. It becomes a test of reading comprehension rather than a test of mathematical computational skill (at which I am very good). I wish I could say more, but I could have my certification revoked if I even mentioned which certification it is!

So what will happen is that teachers will get a look at the test for the first time, and it will take a couple of years to develop lesson plans that will present and teach skills in such a way that the elementary school students will be able to adequately comprehend and perform well on the test. I am not talking about “teaching the test”. I am talking about making the unfamiliar test more familiar by presenting class topics with similar complexity so that students don’t get too freaked out. Obviously, 50% of Kentucky students “got it”. The 25% that are on the edge are going to need a bit more help, and the 25% not getting it all probably never will… at least not at the same speed and in the same class with the 50% who achieved success the first time out.

Concerned DeKalb Mom

November 8th, 2012
5:02 pm

@Mom of 3…I would a hazard a guess that the educators have not lost focus; rather, those supervising the educators and politicians dictating what they should teach have lost the focus.

I love teaching. I hate what it is becoming...

November 8th, 2012
5:20 pm

As I implement the new Common Core in my classroom, I have to say, I like the focus on more challenging levels of thinking and analysis, as opposed to the discrete facts and bits of information current “testing” requires students to cough back up. However, much of what we are asking students to do in Common Core requires the higher levels of critical thinking, synthesis, analysis, inductive and deductive reasoning that generally only my strongest students have ever reached. I suspect “testing” results are going to show that schools are “failing” students, because the Common Core standards tend to treat students as though they are all above level. However, human intelligence and intellectual ability generally falls along a bell curve. You really cannot teach people how to “think” well. You can teach them the strategies to critically analyze information and make connections, but unless they also have some innate abilities in those areas, you are not likely to be overly successful. Not all students’ strengths fall into those areas, which makes the need for vo-tech programs even more necessary.

So, the question arises… Were these new standards put into place to push our students’ to reach their highest level of achievement? Or were they put in place to make schools look bad? I want to believe the former, but have become so jaded, I suspect the latter.


November 8th, 2012
5:21 pm

Ok, stats people, speak up. Isn’t it sort of important to run correlational studies to see if the material on the two tests is related before comparing scores? For example, the itbs and the parcc tests should show some moderate to strong positive correlation, right? And the old Kentucky home test should be at least moderately correlated with the new pseudo parcc test before comparisons are made, yes? Have these studies been done? And what does “proficient” even MEAN? This whole test business is such a sham. As a parent, I would prefer you test my kids infrequently, but with valid and reliable measures that actually tell me something. So who sets the cutoffs and what do they mean? IT is ALL about making money.

Ron F.

November 8th, 2012
6:37 pm

Any time you change curriculum, it takes at least two years to get used to new testing requirements. Once we’ve administered them and know how they’re designed and how they’re asking kids to demonstrate knowledge, we’ll know more about how to better prepare kids for them. A certain amount of “teaching to the test” (knowing what the tests are assessing) will always be part of teaching. I think from what I’ve seen so far that the PARCC tests will be asking for written responses explaining why along with the traditional multiple-choice questions. That will take time to get used to both for kids and teachers. I’m already doing that by having my kids tell me why when we discuss answers to class assignments and they’re practicing writing paragraphs that analyze, synthesize, and evaluate answers. It’s the best I can do until I know for sure.

Private Citizen

November 8th, 2012
9:04 pm

Everybody be aware is that what this is, is that the “pass criteria” or pass rate requirement can be moved up and down like a ping pong ball on a scale. A state can lower the criteria and make three cheers for success, or they can raise the number and humiliate and punish everybody and use it to bring in their new initiative. This manipulation is smartly identified by a Georgia State academic, born in New Orleans, on the Harvard-hosted discussion video about the charterizaton of Now Orleans.

What the common core is doing is bring Georgia and other southern states more inline with national norms. Georgia’s prior norms may be off by as much as 30% lower performance compared to places like Boston or New York City (a guess, maybe more). The effort to at least attempt to use “absolute value” for determination instead of playing a squishy game of moving the numbers around for political reasons, is, in my opinion a good thing. What they’ve been doing is akin to saying they’re saving lives while leaving out the number of gurneys they dropped or that fell out of the ambulance on the way to the hospital. Getting this statistics straightened out might be a good start to addressing or curing some of the seedy off the cuff management that has been going in in the state of Georgia. The shifty approach often rules the day. Seen where they run off a sane straight-arrow worker. The rooted shifty types can not stand basic honest people. Sounds like a generalization, but I’ve seen it.

Ed Johnson

November 8th, 2012
9:16 pm

As I said back when former Iredell-Statesville Public Schools, NC, superintendent Terry “Doc” Holliday became Kentucky Education Commissioner…

Watch Kentucky.

Dr. Holliday brings practical understanding and application of Deming, Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, and various quality methods and practices for improving public education. He presents Iredell-Statesville Schools’ journey to the 2008 Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award in his book, “Running the Red Lights: A Journey to System-Wide Educational Reform.”

Dr. Holliday continually sharing his opinions here…

By the way, I once arranged for a former APS board chair and vice chair to have a conversation with Dr. Holliday. They did, and then did absolutely nothing with the counsel Dr. Holliday gave.

Private Citizen

November 8th, 2012
9:18 pm

Common Core save money and the quality of writing of the standards is good quality. The prior system, Georgia wrote their own standards and a lot of it read like posing or something, did not read well. And then they use force of law to make people apply their wording in the classroom. It was as if there were five people at the top of the state who said, “Do what I say and say what I say and write what I say exactly as I say and base your work on it.” It was horrific. And then they have a little army of people going around making sure teachers are doing as they are told. This has been the method is Georgia. It allows a bunch of simple-minded careerists to be paid to go around and harass teachers. And it’s like fishin’ and need to catch some fish.

I’ll never forget when I sat down with one of these fake review people and I said, “Hey, I’ve developed some new ways to improve (my) workflow!” and they just looked at me like I was from Mars and that what I had just said was unwelcome. That was when I realized they had genuine ill will and their only agenda was to go around and implement a map of pre-picked persons and who they wanted to be where. They had absolutely no interest in “workflow.”

Workflow is a term used to describe the tasks, procedural steps, organizations or people involved, required input and output information, and tools needed for each step in a business process. A workflow approach to analyzing and managing a business process can be combined with an object-oriented programming approach, which tends to focus on documents and data. In general, workflow management focuses on processes rather than documents.

Private Citizen

November 8th, 2012
9:21 pm

Georgia Standards – good riddance! (throwing the last shovel of dirt on the grave)

Private Citizen

November 8th, 2012
9:33 pm

I should have said, “So, I guess you’re not an IBM’er, haven’t visited upstate or heard of Watson.


November 9th, 2012
6:30 am

Ya think? Our school has been distressed to learn that the CCC expects 3rd graders TO HAVE MASTERED first and second grade skills! Imagine that!

Pride and Joy

November 9th, 2012
6:39 am

Ron F makes good points about teaching the “why” to the kids but…teaching “why” should be a given and it should have been taught long ago. For me at least, it’s no-brainer.
Names and dates are easy to measure on a test.
Who invente the cotton gin?
Eli Whitney.
Easy to teach.
Easy to measure on a test.
Is memorizing that fact worthwhile?
Absolutely not.
It’s just memorization of a meaningless name.
What is really important?
What is really important is the role the crop, cotton, played in our nation’s and people’s history.
Only when a student understands the role of cotton in the US economy and all the details that go along with that crop, including slavery, does one begin to understand the importance of the invention of the cotton gin.
They “why” of cotton is important to know.
The “why” of the cotton gin is important to know.
The name of the person who invented the cotton gin without those “whys”?
And that’s where public schools are failing.
The memorization of dates, facts and other easy to measure and easy to grade items has been substituted for real education.
This is why we have failing schools and why parents are clamoring for charters.
Our nation needs real education and we cannot get it at most Georgia traditional public schools.

Kentucky teacher

November 9th, 2012
9:56 am

I teach in Kentucky, and believe me it is not what it appears. We spend all of our time “preparing” for the almighty test. My teaching assistant and I have calculated that we spend a full two months testing and preparing to test ….for the test. I am at the place that I am ready to leave. After almost 30 years of teaching, I have had enough. Then of course Kentucky is laying the groundwork for what will ultimately be evaluations tied directly to student performance and ultimately teacher pay tied to student performance. The question is will the rest of the country follow suit?

Mel Riddile, Ed.D.

November 9th, 2012
10:36 am

We hit the reset button!

Old state standards simply validated a high school diploma. They were never meant to indicate college- and career-readiness.
The adoption of the Common Core State Standards along with the implementation of College and Career-Ready (CCR) assessments shifted the focus from a high school diploma to successful completion of post-secondary education. That “resetting” of expectations means that comparing the results of the old, less rigorous, assessments to the new, college-aligned assessments is comparing apples and oranges. It is like comparing Advanced Placement results to the results of state assessments. They don’t measure the same thing!
In fact, as predicted, the results of these new assessments should and are looking a lot more like the results of the internationally benchmarked NAEP assessments.
The results from old state assessments were simply a number that had no real meaning. The results from CCR-aligned assessments can be used by schools, parents, and communities to measure the readiness level of their students to pursue college and careers.

Mel Riddile
National Association of Secondary School Principals


November 10th, 2012
8:29 am

Who decided that the content of these new assessments does validly and reliably measure “college and career readiness”? Has the research been done to actually correlate these assessments with other known measures of CCR? Or did we just roll it out quuickly so the folks on the inside can make more money? I am asking.

Another view

November 10th, 2012
9:48 am

For my part, the results are not surprising. They mirror the success rate for college preparedness for SAT results.

Crystal Ball

November 10th, 2012
11:39 am

GA will not begin using the CC assessments until 2015. The question is, are schools changing they they teach NOW and not waiting until 2015? Instructional rigor must match that of the ssessments that are going to be used. We know now that students will be required to apply, analyze knowledge, os are we teching and expecting that everyday in classroom now?

God Bless the Teacher!

November 10th, 2012
2:51 pm

The sad part is that the CCGPS math curriculum may change once the PARCC tests are released. We’ve already been told the PARCC assessments may not align with the CCGPS, but we won’t know what changes are needed until after the fact. THERE’s some smart thinking!

Long Time Teacher

November 11th, 2012
12:58 pm

At the beginning of the school I was looking for some Kindergarten materials at a local school store. I picked up the K book on Commoon Core. It had K children filling in the circle for the best answer. Terrible…..terrible. We are not teaching children to think. Kindergarten needs to be hands-on, discovery. Someone needs to wake up and understand the current education leaders are leading us on the wrong path. Georgians must first value education. Parents need to send their children to school prepared and with an attitude of wanting to learn.

Robin Cox

November 28th, 2012
12:36 pm

Just because a publisher states that the work is Common Core aligned doesn’t mean it is true. Teachers must be savvy consumers and critically literate. So, to Long Time Teacher, check out some better resources. Dr. Lucy Calkins has done some excellent work.