Improving CTBS Scores in Mathematics: A Special Section

Strategies that are effective in improving students’ results on the Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT) are entirely different from making similar improvements on standardized tests such as the Comprehensive Tests of Basic Skills (CTBS). Companies such as Kaplan have shown that students can improve results on standardized tests. There are several key components to producing such improvements: content knowledge, test-taking strategies, practice with multiple-choice format, and practice with timed testing.

Even though the CTBS only accounts for 5% of a school’s mathematics index score, it usually carries a much higher weight with the public because it is nationally normed ("But how does my child do when compared to the rest of the country?"). Here we present a special section by ARSI Mathematics Curriculum Specialist Ron Pelfrey on helping students excel on the mathematics portion of the CTBS.

CTBS Mathematics Content Knowledge

In the case of the CTBS, the mathematics content knowledge required is a subset of that required for the KCCT. The majority of the content is based upon knowledge of arithmetic, i.e., whole numbers, fractions, decimals, and percents (Number/Computation), measurement conversions, geometric formulas, and – with the ninth grade – skills with algebraic manipulation.

The content knowledge required is not anything that is not normally taught within mathematics classes prior to the test administration. However, there is often a considerable lag time between instruction of these skills and the time that they are assessed on the CTBS. Consequently, it is recommended that teachers regularly review such skills.

One simple method is to use the opening of class – the time that the teacher is usually handling administrative duties like taking class role, lunch count, signing absence notes, etc. – to place 3-5 review problems on the overhead for students to complete.

Recommended resources

Elementary (K-5): Daily Math Reinforcers (available from ETA, 1-800-445-5985, in transparency format at $69.95 per grade level)

Middle School (6-8): Daily Math Reinforcers (same as above)

High School (9-12): Mathercise (available from Key Curriculum Press, 1-800-541-2442, blackline master format at $39.95 for 5 books)

Practice with Multiple-choice Format and Timed Testing

The KCCT is a power test, in other words, there is no required time set for students to complete each section of the test. In addition, it is primarily open response. Since the KCCT is such a high percentage of the accountability, most teachers focus test-taking practice on the open-response format. Students often receive little exposure to cumulative tests that are multiple-choice and that are timed.

On occasion, such as once each grading period, each teacher may want to give students a test that follows a standardized format. This test can either be a "cumulative review," or, if possible, it may assess skills that have just been taught. There are a number of possible resources available for teachers to select from.

Recommended resources

Test Ready (available @$8.47 each for grades 1–Algebra 1 from

Standardized Test Practice for____( grade level) (available from @ $11.95 each)

Test Practice (available @ $13.95 each for grades 2-6, item number M1-8929-33, from ETA 800-445-5985) .

Most mathematics textbook publishers have multiple choice tests included in their teacher resources. In addition, many of the mathematics publishers now have websites that have practice tests that can be used, (e.g., Glencoe’s middle school mathematics site for standardized test practice is