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.
Sunday, March 02, 2008
This from the Courier-Journal: