Education Commissioner Jon Draud’s “Task Force on Assessment and Accountability” got started in Frankfort today. I was in the audience, which seemed to lack even one reporter (I think they are all still busy trying to sort through the new No Child Left Behind report that came out today).
Anyway, there were three hours of discussions, starting with the ‘commish’s’ comments that he really wasn’t interested in making lots of changes to CATS. He basically indicated he just wants to get legislators and the public more comfortable with the CATS assessment we have now.
My impression of the committee’s reaction to that idea – Good Luck – even with this hand-picked committee, which is heavy on K to 12 educators.
It’s clear that people are concerned about a large list of items such as slow score turn-around times that mean schools can’t use CATS to help plan curriculum (great point from committee member Steve Stevens), issues with whether writing portfolios help or hurt writing instruction, questions about how to make individual students accountable (probably impossible with the current “matrixed” form of CATS where different students get tested on different subsections of the overall curriculum) and so forth.
There were no main decisions reached at this meeting (a laundry list of items for further discussion was not finalized and will have to be assembled and sent out later) – with one notable exception. When the ‘commish’ and his workers tried to set up a task force schedule with just one meeting a month between now and November, that got shot down in a hurry. It seems the people appointed to this group are less malleable and a bit more interested in giving this a good “college try” than the department of education anticipated. And, when I found myself in agreement with some of the comments from the Kentucky Education Association president about problems with writing instruction interference from CATS, there may indeed be some hope that what the department wanted to be a low key sort of white-wash might just turn out to be something much better.