This from the Messenger-Inquirer (subscription):
The drive to review the Kentucky Education Reform Act is picking up steam since Gov. Steve Beshear called for a "thorough review" of KERA during his State of the State speech in Frankfort last week.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo called KERA a 20-year plan, and now is the time to see what changes should be made or new initiatives begun.Rep. Brent Yonts, a Greenville Democrat, said the CATS testing program is directing teaching and leaving many students unprepared when leaving school. He said it is hated in this area.
Even Rep. Harry Moberly, the Richmond Democrat who has championed KERA in Kentucky since its inception, agreed that a consensus has formed to take a "fresh look" at KERA, although he said he is hoping reform principles are not abandoned.
And Sen. Tim Shaughnessy, a Louisville Democrat who has resisted frequent Senate attempts to alter or eliminate the CATS tests, now says CATS needs to sunset because it has run it course.
This newspaper has been a staunch support of KERA and the CATS tests. KERA is all about setting high expectations for learning for all students, rigorous accountability and adequate and equitable funding. A year ago, when Senate Bill 1 sought to deep-six CATS in favor of fill-in-the-circle, machine graded standardized tests, we argued that answering a series of multiple-choice questions was far less revealing about a student's knowledge and reasoning ability compared to requiring that student to write an answer.
Moreover, we stressed that learning to be good writers would be wonderfully advantageous for students throughout their lives. We haven't changed our minds about the standards and accountability aspects of education reform.
As for this new push to review KERA, we don't object, but like Moberly we sincerely hope it doesn't turn into a drive to scrap a movement that has moved Kentucky elementary and secondary education farther in two decades than anything before it.
And we definitely do not want reform of reform to derail or make irrelevant the 2014 goals that schools and school districts are pursuing to score 100 on the 140-point CATS tests.
Many schools are already at the proficient level of 100, and many others are closing in. If the main tenants of KERA, including the CATS test, are tossed aside, the efforts of tens of thousands of students and teachers are suddenly not as meaningful.
KERA isn't perfect. It wasn't the day it began in 1990. It has been reviewed and tweaked many times. Whatever is done now should be done without haste and with great care to protect what is good about education reform in Kentucky and with an eye toward making it better.For a poor state like Kentucky, its only real hope rests with a better-educated work force and more dynamic leaders exiting its colleges, universities and technical schools.
Twenty years ago, Kentucky made a bargain with itself to rise from the near-bottom of national education rankings. That has been accomplished, but much more must be done.
Kentucky needs to ask itself if it is still interested in providing its young citizens the best, most rigorous education available.If the answer is yes, then the seemingly irresistible urge to review KERA upon its 20th birthday will be done in an evenhanded way, with the only goal being to improve it.