Ho, hum. Another year, another set of ambiguous results from CATS, the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System.
CATS is the battery of tests, given starting in the third grade, to gauge student performance in seven subject areas -- reading, math, science, social studies, writing, arts and humanities and practical living/vocation studies. Since schools are the units of accountability in Kentucky, they are judged on the progress they make (or lack of progress) toward reaching proficiency for all their students.
Recent changes necessitated by the lamentable federal No Child Left Behind law have clouded public understanding of the progress made since the state's own accountability system was put in place, with passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) of 1990. The short version of the truth is that there's been enormous progress, but not enough. Many schools have been meeting or even surpassing their goals, but not enough.
As we come ever nearer 2014, when all schools are supposed to score at least 100 on CATS tests, it becomes more and more obvious that we won't reach that goal. The question is, what do we do about that? Scrap KERA altogether? Abandon CATS in favor of a narrow, less demanding, nationally normed test?
A review of KERA is in order. Any such reform effort can be improved, based on 15 years of experience.
What is not advisable -- indeed, what would be tragic -- is replacing CATS with testing that effectively narrows the curriculum now being pushed in the classroom and de-emphasizes both (a) the building of critical thinking skills and (b) the development of writing skills.
The original opponents of KERA -- especially those whose unspoken and unadmitted agenda is the undermining of public education, in favor of private schools supported with taxpayer-financed vouchers -- believe their time has come. They will try to turn a sensible 15-year review into proof that they were right all along -- into evidence that they were right to oppose Kentucky's historic, pioneering effort at school uplift and rigorous accountability.
There's no honest way to torture the actual KERA experience into a story of failure. In truth, the reform set Kentucky on the path toward a deeper, broader educational experience for its children.
Now is not the time to move in the other direction.
Sunday, September 21, 2008
This from C-J: