Kentucky educators on Monday heard more details about the state’s new common core standards from education officials.
Education Commissioner Terry Holliday and Rhonda Sims, director of the division of support and research for the state Department of Education, spoke at South Warren Middle School at a symposium about the new standards.
Holliday told the group that Kentucky is a leader in education reform because it’s the first state to adopt common core standards.
Senate Bill 1, passed in 2009, created a new curriculum called Unbridled Learning that replaced the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System.
The goal is for every student to be prepared for college or a career by the time he or she graduates high school, Holliday said.
Just 38 percent of 2011 graduates were ready to enter college without taking any remediation courses, he said. “We want to eliminate that issue in Kentucky,” he said.
The new test results cannot be compared to the old test results because the new ones are based on getting students ready for college and careers, Holliday said.
While 70 to 80 percent of students were at least at a proficient level under the old system, officials are expecting that rate to drop 15 to 20 percent.
Holliday also announced a new support tool for teachers to implement the common core standards into the classroom, called CIITS, or Continuous Instructional Improvement Technology System.
CIITS is an online tool that lists the new standards, gives sample test questions for the new assessments and provides resources to help teach the standards in class, Holliday said.
“This is a powerful tool that will provide you with tons of information,” he said.
Any educator with an email address in the Kentucky school system can log into CIITS at https://ciits.kyschools.us.
Since President Barack Obama granted Kentucky a waiver from No Child Left Behind this month, the state can focus solely on the new standards and assessment, Holliday said. “This changes quite a bit,” he said.
In the past, parents were confused because there were two systems – the state’s common core standards and No Child Left Behind. Schools could be doing well under one and not the other.
“With the waiver, we only have one system now, so it’s a powerful system that’s more balanced,” Holliday said.
Sims outlined details of the new assessment.
Students in grades three through eight will take Kentucky-Performance Rating for Educational Progress, which replaces KCCT, Sims said. K-PREP will cover reading, math, science, social studies and writing.
High schoolers will take end-of-course assessment for four subjects: U.S. history, biology, algebra II and English II, Sims said. The tests are created by the same company that makes the ACT.
Rather than have tests administered by grade level, they will be given whenever students complete the course, Sims said.
“It’s more tightly connected to the instruction,” she said.
The assessment will begin to define what the content of the course is, she said. If teachers keep their focus on the kids and instruction, then students will do well on the assessment.
The new assessment will also give students some responsibility for the scores they earn, Sims said. The Department of Education recommends that the end-of-course assessment be worth 20 percent of a student’s final grade, although districts can choose for it to be higher or lower.
“Now, students know the grade on that test is going to matter,” Sims said.
In addition to current educators across the state, a group of Western Kentucky University students who are studying to be teachers attended the symposium, including Brian Campbell, a senior from Louisville. He plans to be a social studies teacher in a year and a half.
“I’ll be coming into this as it’s hitting,” he said of the new standards and assessment. “You hear about them, but there’s still a lot of questions. This helps clarify a few things.”