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Regional workshops for parents address new education standards

What parents need to know about Kentucky’s new academic standards and testing was the topic of three recent regional workshops in Boyd, Breathitt and Pulaski counties.

Forward in the Fifth, a regional non-profit organization that supports increasing educational attainment, collaborated with the Kentucky Parent Teacher Association (KYPTA) and The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence offering parent workshops to provide an evening of information for parents and students of all ages.

Educators across Kentucky have been receiving training on the new core academic standards over the past two years resulting in the first implementation of the new student assessments. Kentucky led the nation by becoming the first state to adopt these core academic standards that an additional 45 states later approved.

“The move to common standards was made to provide consistent standards for quality in education throughout the nation,” said Eddie Squires, KYPTA president elect.

“Common standards provide the foundation for a common national assessment,” added Teri Gale, current KYPTA president.  As an example, she explained that children in a military family who move during the school year should be able to resume their current level of studies at the new school without playing “catch up”.

“The educational bar has also been raised,” said Squires.  To be academically proficient, he explained, students will need to work harder because concepts will be introduced at earlier grade levels.

Presenting in  Boyd and Breathitt Counties, Forward in the Fifth Executive Director, Jim Tackett provided examples of what first, fifth, seventh graders and high school students will need to know to be proficient.  He emphasized that parents need to know that knowledge and skills will continue to build on previous teaching and learning and that time will not be spent after summer and winter breaks reviewing the past year’s concepts.

“The new assessment and accountability system will measure growth as well as achievement, so students and schools will not only be working towards proficiency, they will also be expected to show growth and improvement every year,” Tackett said.

In addition to measuring achievement and growth, “gap” student groups (such as minority and special education students and students who qualify for free or reduced lunches) will also be expected to show growth.  When students reach high school, the accountability system includes college and career readiness and graduation rate.

Graduation rates will be calculated differently beginning in 2013.  Instead of counting what percentage of the senior class graduates, the graduation rate will count how many of the freshman students graduate four years later.

Tackett explained that in addition to measuring different outcomes this year, scores are weighted very differently.  Last year, scores were tallied on a 140-point scale and this year it has been changed to a 100-point scale, which he adds, should be easier to follow.

The Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress, known as K-PREP replaces the former “CATS” testing system and is just one of several forms of assessment that will occur at various grade levels.

Now, when students complete the annual K-PREP assessment, parents will receive a “Student Report”.  The first page of the report will show the student’s scores and performance levels and give a short explanation of each level.  The second page compares the student’s performance to other students’ across the nation.  Included are specific activities that parents can do to support their student’s learning.

“I did not know much about the new testing system, but I think it will be better,” said a parent attending one of the workshops.  When asked what ways she will become more involved with her child’s education, she added, “I will follow all the suggestions on the second page of the Student Report.”  Another parent adds that he intends to challenge his son’s skills more.

Tackett explained, “since this system for measuring student success is completely different than last year, parents cannot compare this year’s test score results to last year’s,” said Tackett.

Many educators also attended and realized they also have a new role during this change.  “We need to educate parents on the importance of ‘rigor’ in their child’s education.  I will continue to help educate parents about the new testing system and common core standards,” said a teacher at Boyd County High School.

The changes to the system are being adopted over a period of years.  New standards for math and English/language arts were incorporated in 2011.  The new K-PREP student assessments were also introduced last year.  Program reviews for writing, arts and humanities and practical living/career studies are being conducted in each school currently. Revised science and social studies standards are being developed and anticipated in the near future.  Comprehensive teacher and principal evaluations systems are also being crafted for full use during the 2014-15 school year.

When parents receive their Student Report, Tackett recommends going over it thoroughly, spending time talking with their student about it and discussing how both can have a role in working toward progress.  For parents who have access to a mobile internet device, there is a free application called “Common Core” that individually lists all of the the current common core standards.

For more information or to set up a Parent Engagement Workshop in your community, contact Forward in the Fifth at 606-677-6000 or at fif@centertech.com .

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