Tuesday, August 24, 1999

Ky. test scores encouraging

Results nudge above average

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Kentucky students score at — or slightly above — the national average in reading, language arts and math, while many low-income students are showing significant gains in basic skills, the Kentucky Department of Education announced Monday.

        Education officials released individual school scores for the Comprehensive Test of Basic Skills (CTBS), a national test to help judge student performance.

        While Kentucky students have taken the CTBS the past three years, this is the first time it will help determine how much money their schools receive, as a result of a revamped, statewide testing system.

        “Kentucky's always been average, or a little below (on the CTBS), but this year, we're a little above aver age,” said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education. “These scores are not bad, but we want to do better.”

        Scores for a grade level are a weighted composite of reading, language arts and math scores. A score of 50 means that a student, school or district had an average score, when compared to a national sampling of students who took the test in spring 1996.

        Kentucky's combined scores for the three areas tested ranked average for grades 6 and 9 and slightly above average, or 52, for grade 3.

        In Northern Kentucky, scores show:

        Fort Thomas schools again posted the highest scores. Third-graders scored a 69.6, sixth-graders scored a 70.6, and ninth-graders scored a 66.3.

        Superintendent Larry Stinson said high test scores have become a point of pride for Fort Thomas students.

        “They know that Fort Thomas has had some of the best scores for a long time,” Mr. Stinson said. “They don't want to be the group where that changes.”

        While Covington schools' scores were Northern Kentucky's lowest, Covington sixth-graders showed improvement in all three skills areas tested, and ninth-graders showed gains in reading and math.

        Covington third-graders scored a 36.2; sixth-graders scored 41.3; and ninth-graders scored 40.5.

        Northern Kentucky districts with combined scores above the average of 50 included Beechwood, Boone County, Campbell County, Kenton County, Ludlow and Walton-Verona.

        Walton-Verona was among 10 Kentucky high schools showing overall gains of five points or more.

        The CTBS was first given in 1997 in response to parental criticism that Kentucky's former assessment test didn't allow for national comparisons.

        This year, the CTBS will be one of several components in the new Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) used to judge student performance. Results of the national CTBS and other parts of the CATS will decide next year which schools merit reward money or state assistance in the year 2002.

        The CTBS, which is given in most states, is administered by CTB-McGraw-Hill, one of the country's oldest and largest test publishers. All Kentucky students in grades 3, 6 and 9 take the test.

        “This test is handy for parents, because it lets them see where their kids compare nationally,” Ms. Gross said. “You can look at the results and see which subjects your kids need to work harder in.

        “Schools can use the test to see where their strengths are, and where they need to make improvements,” she said.

        Kentucky has eight regional service centers that provide free advice and training to schools on how to help students learn more efficiently and improve performance in a particular subject, Ms. Gross said.


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