So, let’s try to get this straight. If South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford refuses $700 million in one-time money from the federal government, he would risk causing the loss of 4000 teachers’ jobs and 700 prison guards.
Readers are probably surprised that I didn’t jump out right away this past weekend with some sort of gloating Blog item about the passage of Senate Bill 1 last Friday. This bill will significantly revise and improve Kentucky’s public school assessment program, something I have recommended doing for some time.
Actually, I figured most of you know that the Bluegrass Institute did play a roll in this legislation. In fact, while not by name, we’ve basically been accused of that in several different liberal newspapers as David Adams points out in “These things always happen in threes” over at the Kentucky Progress Blog.
And, we did play a role, providing a huge amount of research and commentary on the CATS’ major failings, both by itself as the state assessment (find some links to some of that research here) and as the testing input to Kentucky’s NCLB program.
In any event, my focus isn’t on some prideful patting myself on the back, despite accusations of that elsewhere.
The important issue is to translate some pretty good provisions in SB-1 into really positive changes for Kentucky’s students. And, that may not be so easy to do.
We need to insure the new assessments are more resistant to the sort of inflation-to-make-educators-look-good problems that ultimately undermined CATS’ credibility.
That may be possible with a continuous comparison to other tests like the National Assessment of Educational Progress and nationally normed tests such as the ACT. SB-1 does not call for that safety check, but it does not prevent the Kentucky Board of Education from establishing an inflation watch program by regulation, either.
There are also potential pitfalls to avoid in some provisions in SB-1 such as the one to consider international benchmarks. Not all international tests are suitable.
This means some really smart and properly motivated people – including some of our very best teachers along with key college professors, parents and business leaders – now need to volunteer for the various committees that will be formed to review and revamp our “mile wide, inch deep” education standards. These people will need to look at the latest research with a careful eye, as education research in general isn’t in very good shape, as experts like Arthur Levine have pointed out.
It’s going to take some sharp people to separate the research wheat from the chaff.
The proper focus going forward also means that the legislature needs to keep a careful eye on the department of education as SB-1 is translated into actual policy. We found out in the past that the department is capable of going off on its own despite the provisions in law. The department dramatically proved that when it illegally dropped norm reference testing in elementary schools and when it consistently ignored a provision to create a longitudinal assessment to track student performance over time. That provision was in the 1998 legislation that created CATS, by the way. It’s a decade later, and it never happened.
Hopefully, with a new commissioner of education coming on board sometime in the next few months and with many other entrenched personnel now retired or moved on from the education department, this issue will not be as large a problem as in the past, but history tells me we can’t assume that will happen.
So, am I pleased that CATS is being replaced? Absolutely! But, am I keeping my eyes wide open so that we don’t wind up, as we did when CATS replaced KIRIS after 1998, with an assessment program that still doesn’t do the job? You bet!
A post on this blog from the weekend about the coming pension disaster is currently the most popular page for readers of this site. It has been widely read primarily because it was picked up by a national pension site called PensionTsunami.com.
Otherwise, the issue has generated barely a trickle of interest inside Kentucky.
Most conversation I’ve heard about the 2009 General Assembly centers on the tax increases. They have received a lot of media coverage also.
But separate Health Fund and local pension raids have gone virtually unnoticed, though they will impact us much more than the smallish tax increases or any of the social issues recently debated in Frankfort.
I wonder why that is.
Leland Conway of 630 WLAP in Lexington’s pork rind protest fame is spearheading the Kentucky Tea Party on Saturday, March 21 at the Fayette County Courthouse.
The Bluegrass Institute is proud to join him and supports the effort as a sponsor.
What we hope to accomplish is to show our elected officials in Lexington, Frankfort, and Washington D.C. that the American fighting spirit will burn longer than their cockamamie programs and backroom political deals. They need us more than we need them and we say enough is enough. Our battle will not be won until government of, by, and for the people is run openly, honestly, and affordably.
Please join us.
Amid all the mess in the 2009 General Assembly, from tax increases and the raid of the Health Fund to the failure of prevailing wage reform and government transparency bills (here and here), a recent Kentucky survey suggests widespread awareness of Frankfort’s shenanigans.
Americans for Prosperity surveyed 600 Kentuckians and found 58 percent were dissatisfied with the legislature’s handling of tax and budget issues. The survey was taken January 22-27, before the tax hikes and the $50 million health fund raid.
The survey also found 49% of respondents viewed wasteful spending on programs that don’t work to be the most important issue in state budgeting, according to an AFP press release.
Repealing CATS testing, of course, helps some on that front.
More on the survey here.
If we had greater transparency in Kentucky, we would see something like this:
Kentucky’s latest retirement plan data was dated June 30, came out at the end of 2008, and showed nearly a $30 billion underfunding. After the stock market crash, it’s obviously much worse than that. The market may well bounce back at some point, but too many people in Frankfort don’t want you paying much attention to how much pain Kentucky taxpayers will face as these bills come due.
Thanks to Jack Dean at pensiontsunami.com for passing along the Texas story.