Commonwealth Accountability Testing System
The Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) is the assessment used to gauge success within public education in Kentucky. CATS utilizes writing portfolios, the Kentucky Core Content Test, the ACT, and other non-academic components to assess the performance of students.
The Commonwealth Accountability Testing System is designed around "core content", that is content that state educators feel is necessary for every student in the state to learn.  These core content areas are reading, math, science, social studies, arts and humanities, and practical living and vocational skills.
Schools are responsible for student scores in CATS testing. In addition to the academic content areas listed above, schools are also held responsible for nonacademic areas such as dropout rates, attendance, and readiness successful transition to adult life. Results from these two areas are compiled in to the school's accountability index. This index is used to assess the performance of the school as well as the school's eligibility for sanctions or rewards. If schools achieve their biennial CATS score goals they are eligible for monetary rewards. If the school fails to meet its goals then it is subject to sanctions by the Kentucky Department of Education including audits or the dismissal of school personnel.
The CATS test has multiple components that students are exposed to beginning in the third grade and continuing throughout their entire public school education in Kentucky. The following descriptions came from the Kentucky Department of Education website...
- The CTBS 5-Survey Edition - A multiple-choice test that enables the state to compare students nationally in language arts, reading and math. Note: This element was removed from CATS in 2007.
- The Kentucky Core Content Tests (KCCT) - A mixture of multiple-choice and open-response questions in reading, science, mathematics, social studies, arts and humanities, and practical living/vocational studies.
- Writing Portfolio - A collection of a student’s best writing over time.
- Writing Prompts - Writing tests that measure skills developed from writing instruction.
- Alternate Portfolio - A collection of the best works of students with severe to profound disabilities.
- What is a portfolio? - A portfolio is a collection of a student’s best writing. Students in grades 4, 7 and 12 choose pieces of their best writing, produced in all of their classes over several months or previous years, to include in an assessment portfolio. The portfolio is intended to show the progress the student has made over a period of time. A scoring guide is used to determine the student’s performance level.
Kentucky Education analyst Richard Innes published a report called "CATS Inadequate Basis for NCLB" regarding the ability of CATS to accurately measure Kentucky's No Child Left Behind progress. The report cites CATS inability to report accurately, tendency to exempt unreasonable numbers of students, and large confidence intervals in CATS-testing as reason why it is currently unfit in terms of assessing No Child Left Behind.
CATS has also drawn some criticism for the fact that it is often found to be at odds with other well respected standardized tests such as the ACT. While scores for CATS show progress in the area of student achievement, many others show decline. This has led many to accuse CATS scores of being wrongly inflated. 
Inflation of CATS scores
CATS has also drawn criticism for the fact that Kentucky Department of Education allegedly inflates the scores.
Education research analyst Richard Innes has concluded that CATS scores have been significantly inflated in order to misrepresent the effectiveness and success of the current testing system. The following are links to blog entries discussing his research...
- CATS Inflation So Obvious a Grade School Kid Should See It
- Testing Expert Slams Former Kentucky Test Gains as "Bogus"
- Which Schools Are Really Struggling? How Badly?
- Comparing CATS to Better Tests
- Bang For The Buck
- CATS Inadequate Basis for NCLB
- KY Finally Gets Trustworthy Scores
- CATS Academic Test Inflation
- Legislative Research Commission CATS Study
- Comparing CATS to better testsaccessed September 11, 2008