The Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS)
is designed to improve teaching and student learning in Kentucky.
The CATS includes the Kentucky Core Content Test, a nationally
norm-referenced test, the CTBS/5 Survey Edition, writing portfolios
and prompts and the alternate portfolio for students with
severe to profound disabilities.
The Commonwealth Accountability and Testing System (CATS)
is first administered in April of the third grade. Third grade
students take a multiple-choice test called the Comprehensive
Test of Basic Skills (CTBS/5), which is produced by the CTB
McGraw-Hill Corporation. Because this test is used nationwide,
Kentucky students can be compared to students in other states.
This test is repeated in grades six and nine.
In grade four, students write parts of the Kentucky Core
Content Test (KCCT for short) for the first time. This test
is very different from the CTBS/5. In addition to the multiple-choice
format, students answer open-response questions with essays.
The open-response answers are limited to one page. A second
difference is that the KCCT is designed to cover the breadth
of the Core Content, which specifies the knowledge and skills
that Kentucky students are expected to master at each grade
level Test questions cover reading, writing and science. The
reading and science tests, contain six open-response questions,
as well as one that is being evaluated for future tests. This
question is not factored into the student score. The writing
test offers the student two questions, of which they only
have to answer one. In addition, fourth graders produce a
Writing Portfolio, a collection of expanded work representing
their best efforts.
Fifth grade students continue the KCCT in different subjects
than in the fourth grade. The format of the fifth grade mathematics
and social studies test resembles the fourth grade reading
and science test: it contains six open-response questions
and one experimental question. Two new subjects are also tested
for the first time in fifth grade: arts & humanities,
and practical living/vocational studies. These tests are shorter,
containing two open-response items and one experimental item,
along with fewer multiple-choice questions than are contained
in the mathematics or social studies sections. The following
bullets summarize testing in middle and high school, which
is parallel to the testing in elementary schools mentioned
- Students in the sixth grade take a grade appropriate
version of the CTBS/5.
- Seventh graders write tests in the same subjects as fourth
grade, with the same number of questions at a grade appropriate
- Eighth grade repeats the same subjects as fifth grade.
- Ninth grade students take a grade appropriate version
of the CTBS/5.
- Tenth grade takes the KCCT in reading and practical living/vocational
studies. These tests have the same number of questions as
these subjects had in earlier grades, but the questions
have increased in difficulty at each level.
- Eleventh grade is the most heavily tested grade in high
school. Students write the KCCT in mathematics, science,
social studies, and arts & humanities.
- Since many students graduate at the end of the first semester
of grade twelve, only two parts of the CATS are completed:
in twelfth grade, the writing portfolio which can be finished
the first semester, although it is not due until April,
and the writing question, called writing on-demand, which
is also administered in April.
One of the strong points of CATS is that it does not depend
on a single type of testing. The KCCT includes multiple-choice
in every subject and grade from three through eleven, open-response
in grades four, five, seven, eight, ten, and eleven, writing
questions and portfolios in four, seven and twelve. The variety
of testing methods allows students to show a greater range
of their abilities.
Merit’s language arts and math software programs correlate
to Kentucky’s Core Content and can help students prepare
for CATS. The content and format of Merit’s programs
can help students develop and strengthen their test-taking
skills as well as their reading, writing and math skills.
Merit reading software has been proven -- through rigorous,
scientifically based research -- to increase both student
reading comprehension and standardized test scores. Merit
research study findings reveal that education software is
an effective tool to improve test scores and academic performance.
Published: May 2005