CATS Inadequate Basis for NCLB

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CATS: An Inadequate basis for School Improvement is study conducted by Kentucky education analyst Richard Innes asserting that the design of the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, a loose exemptions policy, and an unreasonable use of statistical tools leave Kentucky's students behind.

Executive Summary


The No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) is designed to improve public education by holding states accountable for the academic performance of their children, particularly those who are minorities, have a disability or live in poverty. The passage of NCLB offered a strategic opportunity for Kentucky to make much-needed changes to its controversial Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) in ways that offer more accurate evaluations of the classroom performance of individual students and teachers, and the schools where they attend and work. Instead, the state’s education hierarchy chose only to make minor changes in the CATS in an attempt to use an old troubled assessment to meet the requirements of a new law. As a result, Kentucky’s testing policy continues to inadequately measure results for the following reasons...

  • CATS cannot provide accurate NCLB scores for individual students or small groups
  • Kentucky’s NCLB reporting rules exempt an unreasonable number of students
  • CATS’ design delays transfers and reforms
  • Unnecessarily large confidence intervals in CATS-based reports weaken accountability

The report suggests the following actions...

  • Eliminate or greatly reduce the role of confidence intervals
  • Use multiyear score averages for small subgroups
  • Create more opportunities for students to make up tests
  • Consider other testing systems

View the entire report