The state's major newspapers provided their own post mortems on school reform in Kentucky since Friday's collapse of the CATS assessment. They found the same perpetrators.
Their analysis is correct, to a point, but incomplete.
In "Death of reform" the Courier-Journal offered,
The irony is, it's the Republican leadership in Frankfort that has linked arms with the statewide teacher union, the Kentucky Education Association, to trample the remaining vestiges of what was once a comprehensive state reform, with a demanding accountability system.
It's understandable why the conservative, educationally revanchist Republicans and their right-wing think-tank friends want to discredit Kentucky's public education reform, as part of a long-term strategy to abase the public sector, mollycoddle middle-class striver-parents with outmoded, ineffective nationally normed testing and pave the way toward private school vouchers.
C-J might also have mentioned that some opponents didn't seem to believe that equality of educational opportunity was a particularly useful goal from the start. As early as 1994, the Bluegrass Institute's Richard Innes was identified by the Kentucky Post as a KERA foe. BIPPS has since shown a willingness to twist or exaggerate the truth out of any data point to tell a story they wish to be true. The Family Foundation proudly counts itself among those who opposed KERA from the start.
The Herald-Leader has learned that good teachers are sad, but bad teachers are happy. They didn't specifically indicate which were which.
With no whisper of objection from Gov. Steve Beshear, lawmakers last week kicked the ladder out from under the many educators who have been working hard to pull their students and schools up. (On the lower rungs, less accomplished teachers were gleeful.) ...
As it stands, cynics can justifiably conclude that Beshear and House Democrats, under new Speaker Greg Stumbo, caved to the worst impulses of both the teachers union and conservative enemies of public schools.
Similarly, C-J declared it "a mystery why KEA would want to help them do their dirty work," but then decided it must be teacher laziness, and resistance to new ideas - not from the good teachers, you know, but the bad teachers.
You can tell who's who by their support for CATS - or lack thereof.
And too simple is what makes both papers wrong.
The papers' desire to turn a deaf ear to the increasingly shrill complaints from a majority of Kentucky teachers - good and bad - over the most recent escalation of test preparation tactics has served to support overzealous superintendents and principals as they ignored veteran teachers' opinions while applying the thumb screws to any teacher who dared not comply.
In that process, we have seen school districts introduce new program after new program, rarely allowing faculty time necessary to allow the innovation to become intergrated into the system. They didn't have time to wait. The superintendent wanted another 10-point jump this year. Somebody on the editorial boards should have written about that.
The holy grail of school reform became that too-good-to-be-true savior principal whose leadership alone would lift children out of ignorance and set the world on the right course.
It a great dream. But it's a dream.
In that sense, do the papers share some complicity for the demise of the CATS assessment?
Just as the papers' unbending support for the Primary Program drove away far too many of our school's most energetic supporters - the parents of primary children - the gamesmanship of the CATS assessment soured a majority of Kentucky teachers. One wonders where we would be today if a more balanced approach was employed by our school reformers, our administrators and the editorial boards. Might it be that the conservative forces could not have mustered the necessary support for a unamious vote in both houses without the number of disillusioned teachers the system has created?
Did you hear that big sigh of relief sweep across the state? I did.
Is it party time in Kentucky schools? I hope not, but I wouldn't give a plug nickle for program evaluations as a substitute for real accountability.