CATS In Decline

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"CATS In Decline" is an article written by education analyst Richard Innes discussing the decline of the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS).

Executive Summary

Ever since the implementation of Kentucky's Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, known as the CATS, researchers have wondered if students were really doing better, or if the grading standards were simply getting easier.

Certainly, the new CATS results for 2007 show serious signs of inflation. There are extremely large differences in 2007 proficiency rates reported by the CATS' individual academic subjects compared to proficiency rates reported by the National Assessment of Educational Progress - a highly regarded federal testing program.

However, the Kentucky Department of Education publicly admits the 2007 version of CATS has so many changes that it must be considered "new". Could the current differences all be the result of those 2007 changes? That raises the question: Were CATS scores artificially inflated even before 2007?

To answer that question, we developed a new technique to measure rigor in the "old" CATS using a "yardstick" based on the national assessment. We found that virtually since CATS was implemented, standards have continuously declinded. As a consequence since its inception in 1999 the CATS program has offered an inflated evaluation of educational progress in Kentucky.

The consequences of such distortions are significant. There is now considerable misunderstanding throughout the commonwealth about the real rate of progress and current condition of our education system. Due to bias in the CATS scores that increasingly has favored elementary schools, scarce resources have probably been misdirected.

As an unreliable gauge of progress, the CATS assessment needs to be replaced by more credible tests. In hindsight, it was a mistake to charge the Kentucky Department of Education to both assist school systems in making improvements and be the sole administrator of the assessment system to determine if that effort was successful. A seperate agency should b created to manage the assessment of educational progress in Kentucky's schools.

View the entire report