The Richmond Register

November 2, 2012

A guide to the new school test scores

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — Test scores for the state’s new assessment and accountability system, Unbridled Learning, look drastically different than years’ past, said Randy Peffer, Madison County Schools chief academic officer.

Not only are there changes in scorekeeping methods, but also in the range of scores possible. For example, in the past, schools could score between zero and 140. Now, schools may score between zero and 100.

“Scores that used to be in the 100s, are now going to be in the 50s and 60s — not because of any decrease in achievement, it's just a different way they've kept score,” he said.

There were changes in the state’s standards of proficiency as well.

“In the past, there was a high percentage of students reaching proficiency on the state assessment, but when they took the EXPLORE, PLAN and ACT (nationwide tests), the percentage of kids reaching proficiency was no where close to the number of kids who were meeting the benchmark,” Peffer said. “There was an over-inflation of students meeting proficiency.”

The new Kentucky standards adopted last year has risen the bar for students to meet proficiency, he said, therefore the number of students meeting proficiency will drop.

After a final score is tallied for each school, it is ranked state-wide from highest to lowest, so that each fall into a percentile.

Schools in the 90th percentile and above are labelled “distinguished;” 70th to 89th percentile are “proficient;” and anything below 70th “needs improvement.”

“This is something that the public really needs to know about … We could be doing 69 percent better than all the other schools in the state, but still need improvement (based on the outcome of the year),” county school board member Chris Hager said at the Oct. 11 meeting. “You can have every school in the state do 400 percent better than last year and still have 70 percent of them ‘need improvement.’”

In February, the U.S. Department of Education granted Kentucky flexibility under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, according to a press release from the Kentucky Department of Education. This flexibility allows the state to use the Unbridled Learning model to report both state- and federal-level accountability measures.

Next Generation Learners

Next year, Unbridled Learning will include program reviews on a school’s course-offerings in subjects such as practical living, arts and humanities and creative writing. The following year, the assessment will look at teacher and principal effectiveness.

However, this year, only the first phase of Unbridled Learning was introduced — Next Generation Learners.

There are five components to Next Generation Learners from which a school is assessed: Achievement, Gap, Growth, College/Career Readiness and Graduation Rates.

Elementary scores are based on the first three components, middle school scores are based on the first four and high school scores are calculated using all five components.


“Achievement” is determined by how students perform on K-PREP tests (Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress), administered during the last 14 instructional days of the school year.

The schools are given zero points for a “novice” score, a half a point for an “apprentice” score and a full point for a “proficient” or “distinguished” score.

In the past, a school’s overall score was only determined by the results of these tests, formerly known as the KCCT (Kentucky Core Content Test).


The “gap” component is measured by how many students achieve “proficient” or “distinguished” and are either a minority, receive free or reduced lunch, received special education or are English Language Learners (students who have not mastered the English language because they are new to the country), Peffer said.

Kentucky’s goal is 100 percent proficiency for all students, he said. Therefore the “gap” is the difference between that goal and the actual score from the “gap group.”


Growth is defined as students who meet typical or higher gains on the assessment based upon their “academic peers” from one year to the next, Peffer said. Growth is measured only in reading and mathematics.

“That's measuring how well we as a school are helping kids grow academically, based upon where they started and where they need to go,” he said. “We’ve never looked at growth like this before.”

An “academic peer” is not just defined as “students who are in the same grade level,” he said. Academic peers are students who are compared to the others across the state who scored at the same level.

Schools are given points for students who achieve typical or higher growth. That means, students who are already performing at a high level will not necessarily score points for their school if they do not achieve growth from the previous year. Whereas, a student who earns low scores but has achieved typical or higher growth from the following year, will gain points for the school.

In the past, a student could never score more than “distinguished,” therefore assessments did not focus on the growth of every student, especially those who already scored at a high level, Peffer said.

Elementary and middle school growth is calculated using K-PREP. High school growth is calculated using PLAN and ACT, which are part of a series of tests explained in the next component.

College/Career Readiness

Only middle and high schools are scored with this component.

College Readiness is assessed using EPAS (Educational Planning and Assessment System) which consists of three tests: EXPLORE, administered to eighth-graders in September; PLAN given to tenth-graders, also in September; and ACT, taken by 11th-graders in March. These test are administered nationwide.

In middle schools, College Readiness is based on the percentage of students who meet the EXPLORE benchmarks in three academic areas, Reading, English and Mathematics. The score range is between one and 25.

High school students are deemed “college ready” if they meet the ACT benchmarks in the same academic areas. The score range is between one to 36.

Finally, high school students are considered “career ready” by achieving a qualifying score on the ACT, the ASVAB (military assessment test), COMPASS (Computer Adaptive Placement Assessment and Support System), KYOTE (Kentucky On-line Test), the ACT WorkKeys, a job skills assessment system that measures foundational and soft skills, or KOSSA (Kentucky Occupational Skill Standards), an industry-recognized certificate in a vocational field.

Averaged-Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR)

This component is only used in high school assessments. Graduation rate is defined as the percent of high school students who graduate in four years, Peffer said.

He used this example: Say 320 students entered ninth-grade in 2009. That number is added to 297, the number of tenth-graders in 2010. The average enrollment for this cohort of students is 308.5 ((320+297)/2). In 2012, there are 249 graduates who received a standard diploma in four years and 3 graduates with an IEP (individual education plan) who graduated in five years, which totals 252 graduates. Therefore the number of graduates (252) divided by the average enrollment (308.5) equals an 81.69 graduation rate.

Kentucky also will include students who graduate in five years starting in the 2014-15 school year.

Grade level break down

Elementary School

The K-PREP tests assess all elementary students in Reading and Mathematics. However, fourth-graders also will be assessed in Science and Writing Mechanics. Fifth-graders will be assessed in Social Studies and Writing on-demand.

An elementary school’s overall score is based on Achievement (30 percent), Gap (30 percent) and Growth (40 percent).

Middle School

As in elementary schools, the K-PREP tests assess all middle school students in Reading and Mathematics. However, sixth-graders also will be assessed in Writing on-demand and Writing Mechanics; seventh-graders in Science; and eighth-graders in Social Studies and Writing on-demand.

A middle school’s overall score is based on Achievement (28 percent), Gap (28 percent), Growth (28 percent) and College Readiness (16 percent).

High School

High school student’s are administered K-PREP End-of-Course assessments given in English 10, Algebra 1, Biology 1 and U.S. History for the school’s “achievement” component. Sophomores and juniors also are assessed in Writing on-demand.

A high school’s overall score is based on Achievement (20 percent), Gap (20 percent), Growth (20 percent), College/Career Readiness (20 percent) and Graduation Rate (20 percent).


There also is potential for bonus scoring in “achievement” if the percentage of students scoring Distinguished is greater than the percentage at the Novice performance level.

High schools are awarded a 0.5-point bonus for each percent of students who meet both College Readiness and Career Readiness standards.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.