Monday, April 6, 2009

Kentucky’s Educators May Get to Do Some Explaining

According to the New York Times, US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is going to require states to supply more education data to the federal government if they want to wallow at the trough of the second round of education stimulus package money later this year.

The Times says this “…is likely to reveal that in many states, tests have been dumbed down so that students score far higher than on tests administered by the federal Department of Education.”

That is certainly what the data shows in Kentucky. The graph below shows the reported proficiency rates for Kentucky’s public middle school students on reading in CATS and in the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) between 2002 and 2007.

Not only did CATS report much higher proficiency rates than the NAEP, but the proficiency rates actually declined in the federal test while they went up on the CATS assessment.

So, even though we just threw our inflated CATS assessments out, if Secretary Duncan wants to see some proof that we’ve really changed our inflated scoring ways, Kentucky’s educators may get to do some explaining.


Anonymous said...

You've seen the explanation before. Check it out again. Maybe it will stick this time:

An explanation for the large differences between state and NAEP "proficiency" scores reported for reading in 2005.

It is available online:

Richard Innes said...

RE: Anonymous April 7, 2009 2:53 PM

I have indeed seen this “explanation” before. It’s not convincing.

For our other readers, this paper was created by an employee of the Idaho State Board of Education. At the time this paper was written, Idaho was under fire because its state assessment’s definition of “Proficiency” was – like Kentucky’s – far below what the NAEP deemed to be acceptable performance meriting use of the term. Certainly, the reporter cannot be considered unbiased.

More to the point, the paper cited by Anonymous suffers from some incredibly bad logic. Among other issues, there is an implication that the NAEP Achievement Level Scores (which include the score of “Proficient) were somehow derived without any consideration of the grades of the students involved. That is patent nonsense. In fact, the cut scores for NAEP Achievement Level Scores are separately developed for each tested grade. The scores are most definitely related to specific performance expected in specific grades.

There is more wrong with this paper, but it isn’t worth going into.

The real point here is that Anonymous doesn’t want to admit that there is NO excuse for NAEP to show a DECREASE in proficiency rates while CATS shows an INCREASE. But, that is what happened with CATS as I point out with the graph in the main post. This diverging trend is evidence of severe test inflation on CATS grade 8 reading.

Most intelligent people understand that.

In addition, there is no excuse for the grading scales in CATS to get progressively easier and easier over time, something I have solidly established happened with CATS as shown here (

Kentucky education’s ten-year courtship with an inflated, misleading assessment that didn’t provide us the truth was inexcusable, pure and simple. And, those who continue to defend CATS in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, such as the just-released bad news about our latest college remediation rates (, are badly out of touch with reality.

Anonymous said...

"The real point here is that Anonymous doesn’t want to admit that there is NO excuse for NAEP to show a DECREASE in proficiency rates while CATS shows an INCREASE."

Hardly! The real point is that it makes little, if any, sense to become excited by or even interested in comparisons showing that the percent of students performing at a classroom B+/A- level or higher is decreasing (NAEP results) while the percent of students performing at a classroom C-/C level or higher is increasing (state test results).

Anonymous said...

Please be aware that NCLB requires a state to define proficient as meeting grade level expectations. Moreover, the state test must assess only the grade level content listed in the state standards for that grade level. On the other hand, NAEP achievement levels are not bound by grade level content. In fact, a NAEP proficient reader must know many terms and phrases that are above grade level. Both of these facts are clearly documented in that paper you deem "not convincing" with sources from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Assessment Governing Board.