Schools across the state are taking the K-PREP assessment test this week, but this year’s test will be quite different from similar tests of the past.

Tests are being taken during each school district’s last 14 instructional days of the school calendar. It’s not tied to any federal or state funding, but shows schools and education administration the level of knowledge its students have and progress made over the years.

The Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) is the annual summative assessment given in grades 3 through 8, 10 and 11 to Kentucky public school students.

K-PREP provides content area assessments, such as reading, mathematics, science, social studies and writing, at all grade levels or grade bands.

When the tests are completed and scored, the percentage of those attaining proficient or distinguished in each school or district is then made public.

Because of complications caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the K-PREP test was not provided in the 2019-20 school year. This year’s results will serve as a baseline to compare future scores.

Jennifer Ginn is the assistant director of the Office of Communications with the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) and the editor of Kentucky Teacher, a KDE publication.

“We will primarily be using K-PREP data to meet federal testing and reporting requirements,” she said. “The test gives a snapshot of performance for tested students.

“The U.S. Department of Education is expecting participation to be reported, but because we are expecting a smaller percentage of students to be tested this spring compared to previous years, the comparison of data across time will be limited.”

In 2019, a five-star rating system was used based on a school’s K-PREP scores. Ginn said that system will not be used this year, and KDE is working on a color-coded rating system to replace the five-star system in 2022.

Each school has a window of opportunity to take the test, a length of time that varies school-to-school.

In McCracken County schools, Reidland Middle School and McCracken County High School began taking the test on April 26, while other MCSD schools will begin taking it this week or next week. The test windows for MCHS and Lone Oak Middle School extend to May 21.

Paducah schools are all taking the K-PREP test this week and using next week as a time to make the test up.

McCracken County School District Superintendent Steve Carter said there are other nuances involved with this year’s K-PREP.

“The biggest thing for us is this is going to be the first time that our elementary and middle school students complete this online,” he said. “We’ve always administered a paper and pencil test. Our high school has done online before, but this is the first time for all grades to do it online.

“…We just hope that technology works the way that it can, and we’ll work through that. We don’t anticipate there to be any issues, other than it being something that’s new.”

Carter said that, in general, schools can expect a “slight drop” in scores from the last K-PREP test.

“It’s a modified test, and it’s going to be online, so again, that newness in and of itself will be something we look at as well when we talk about the two-year issue,” he said. “That will make it a challenge. … There is a year’s assessment that is missing.”

Paducah Independent School District Superintendent Donald Shively said this year’s test will help shine a light on where educational gaps may have occurred as students went through a year of hybrid in-school learning and at-home learning via Zoom.

“The information that we get back will be very valuable for our academic planning purposes for next year,” he said. “Part of one of our professional development days in the year is where we take the K-PREP test and look at other assessments we give in the district.

“I think this year will give us a great idea on any gaps that have occurred. We’ve had a…challenging school year with an alternate calendar and a later start than normal. We were virtual when COVID was so rampant in November and December. I think (the test) will be extremely valuable for us as we look at each individual child and academic plan next year.”

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