Get Ready: The Test Scores Are Coming
Kentucky was the first state to adopt the common core standards and one of the first to assess students on these tougher learning requirements. There are always pros and cons to being ahead of the crowd, and Kentucky is no stranger to being first in education reform, dating to the 1990 passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act.
But experience doesn't always make things easier. School districts are reviewing their test scores now as a quality control measure, and the scores are to be released to the public in late October or early November. That release is the target of efforts already underway to explain the scores and diminish any negative impact they might have.
Many groups, including the Prichard Committee and the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, have been preparing the public for low test scores as part of the ReadyKentucky initiative. The Prichard Committee initiated and partnered with the Chamber on the formation of the Business Leader Champions for Education. This group is supporting the new standards and helping spread the word that we must stay the course and keep them in place, even if our test scores are lower than those we've seen in the past. Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday is also warning the public that the scores will be lower than what people are accustomed to seeing. There are several reasons for this possibility: the standards set higher expectations and require harder work, and Kentucky's grading system for schools has moved from a scale of 140 to a scale of 100. Even with nothing else involved, that change would result in scores that appear to be lower.
Why is so much effort going into preparing the public for lower test scores? One of the Prichard Committee board members, Franklin Jelsma, offered the analogy of what someone experiences when beginning to exercise at a gym. "When one first starts exercising he or she gets sore and it can be painful, but if the person sticks to it and continues the work, the rewards are great in the end." There may be some pain when these initial scores are released, but I believe in the end we will see higher student achievement. Teachers and students need a period of adjustment to the new standards before we will see these increases. It is our hope that we will endure the initial pain and come out stronger.
In many ways it would have been much better for Kentucky to spend more time preparing teachers before the assessments were given. But, on the up side, we will soon have this first round behind us with new baseline data and new goals for the future. In my experience, I have found that the kids are very resilient and will work to meet higher expectations; it just takes time.
As I have written before (in the post New Standards, New Scores, New Lessons to be Learned ) there are many lessons to be learned from Kentucky's early implementation of the common core standards. I hope the lessons we're learning in Kentucky will be beneficial to you and your communities as you move forward. Please continue to advocate for high standards for our kids. They will make all the difference to the success of our country.