Sunday, March 02, 2008

Making SB 1 a joke

This from the Courier-Journal:

One hardly knows whether to cheer or jeer.

On Thursday, Senate leaders Dan Kelly and David Williams put on a frivolous show, ostensibly for the purpose of discussing Senate Bill 1, through which they hope to gut education reform.

The Senate Education Committee meeting didn't even include testimony from the state's top two education officials, Commissioner Jon Draud and Education Secretary Helen Mountjoy.

Mr. Williams dismissed complaints that Mr. Draud wasn't asked to appear. "He was welcome to come," the Senate president shrugged. "He's aware of the agenda … I didn't invite anyone."

It was a silly session that suggested Sens. Kelly and Williams aren't serious about trying to pass SB 1. That would be good news indeed, and well worth cheering.

On the other hand, playing games with the fate of Kentucky's historic effort to improve elementary and secondary education is shameful.

As Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, D-Louisville, said, "… If they're interested in just gutting the (Commonwealth Accountability Testing System) test, gutting accountability and just ramrodding things, then count me out."

The Senate leaders' effort to go cheap on Kentucky's kids is reprehensible. They would use off-the shelf, one-size-fits-all testing to undo the accountability that's based on CATS. They would impose testing that's not centered on the Kentucky curriculum, would not measure higher learning skills, would defy the KERA precept that every student can become proficient and would put Kentucky athwart basic requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act.

Most important, SB 1's approach to testing would ensure that writing gets little emphasis. That would please a few lazy, inept teachers who can't or won't master such instruction.

But what a tragedy it would be for Kentucky students, who absolutely must learn to gather, interpret and communicate information and ideas, if they are to survive in the emerging economy.

A new hearing has been set for next week, and this time Senate leaders should come up with a serious witness list, certainly including Mr. Draud.

No real "school man" could support SB1, and that's how Mr. Draud, also a former GOP legislator, was described by those who defended the rush to appoint him before the Republican administration left Frankfort -- a "school man."

In Kentucky, that old-fashioned term is used to describe somebody who has devoted a career to education and who knows what schooling can do for people.

Politicians may play games with SB1, but a real "school man" would unequivocally oppose this terrible legislation.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Making Editorials a Joke

The Courier’s Saturday editorial attacking Senate Bill 1 goes well beyond acceptable. It’s OK to challenge this bill with factual information, but when the editorial demeans the well-qualified people who testified both pro and con on this bill as not being serious witnesses, that goes too far.

Among those speaking in favor of the bill was Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s David Adkisson, whose organization funded and recently released a report on problems and potential solutions for our significant issues with Kentucky postsecondary education. Is Adkisson not “serious?” Is he “silly?”

How about three senior people from the organization that writes and administers the ACT college entrance test? Does the Courier really think these experts, which included an ACT vice president, have nothing “serious” to offer? That is silly.

How about the Superintendent and staff from what is arguably Kentucky’s best performing school district, the Fort Thomas Independent schools in Northern Kentucky. This district gets scores and performance most Kentucky educators would love to emulate. But, the Courier would have us believe these Kentucky educators are not serious witnesses to the problem of CATS. Again, that is silly, to use the Courier’s inflammatory term.

On the other side of the discussion, Dr. Robert Sexton of the Prichard Committee spoke – and was given more time, by the way – than almost any individual proponent of SB 1 got.

The ever vocal Brent McKim of the Jefferson County Teachers Association also got very generous speaking time. In fact, McKim got by far the highest amount of speaking time offered to any individual. McKim is an opponent of the bill. Not only was the time allowed McKim “serious,” but I take objection to the idea that you can out of hand dismiss him as an other than serious witness.

The Courier owes an apology to all of those who took time to testify on Thursday.

There were other speakers as well on both sides of the issue. They also deserve an apology from an editor who is too quick to play the very same game of politics with children that he or she accuses others of doing.

Sadly, politics aplenty has entered the SB 1 discussion – not a small amount of it flowing from the editorial pens at the Courier. If the editors really think that our nearly 50 percent college freshman remediation rate and our disastrous high school dropout rate don’t signal that something is seriously wrong with Kentucky’s education program, let them make that case in an intelligent way. To focus instead on demeaning the credentials of those who spoke last Thursday is nothing more than an artless ad hominem attack that mostly shows the editor must have been failed by his or her school system, which should have taught that these attacks are usually symptoms of someone with a weak position but who is too small to admit it.