— But, CATS has confused people since 1999
Hand-wringing continues in the media about pending changes to the CATS school assessments. These changes will soon take place as a result of the recently passed Senate Bill 1.
Sadly, in a ruffled feathers reaction to the bill, some of its critics are now going too far. The latest examples of these excesses appeared yesterday in this Herald-Leader article.
For example, even though the article correctly points out that tests in writing, science and social studies will continue to be given over the next three years, Dr. Robert Sexton of the Prichard Committee opines that, “parents and the public will know nothing … about whether a school is making progress or not vis-à-vis other schools and compared to the year before.”
Well, if the scores are provided, why can’t parents and others like the Bluegrass Institute – and even the Prichard Committee – look at them to see trends? Does Dr. Sexton really think Kentuckians are incapable of doing that? Can it be that scores for math, reading, science, social studies and writing first have to be simplified down to one final number before anyone in this state can understand the data?
The article next goes on to say, “The chief goal of CATS was having all Kentucky children scoring in the “proficient” range by 2014.”
That is incorrect. In fact, this is one of the biggest misrepresentations in CATS. The Bluegrass Institute discusses this issue in great detail in our four-part You Tube series on how the CATS accountability index really works (Find links to those You Tubes here under Item 13).
We also discuss this erroneous assertion in our paper, “Planning for failure: Is the road to 2014 leading toward proficiency for all Kentucky students?”
The truth is that under CATS schools could escape all accountability – even in 2014 – with proficiency rates as low as 39 percent in math and zero – yes, ZERO – percent proficiency in on-demand writing. We provide real world examples to back up that claim.
In truth, the only real guarantee in CATS’ is something much less than its supporters are willing to admit.
Finally, the Herald-Leader article includes a disturbing example of why I recently put out a caution about what needs to happen next. This involves the detailed steps still required to create the actual assessments from the more general directions found in SB-1. The Herald-Leader says that Kentucky Department of Education key spokesperson Lisa Gross told their reporter, “Under CATS, the state annually published ‘non-academic data,’ including items like schools’ dropout rates, attendance rates and other measures. SB 1 doesn’t mention that.”
That is absolutely incorrect. In fact, SB-1 basically continues intact the requirements to publish nonacademic data as stipulated in the original CATS legislation. One place you can find mention of nonacademic requirements without even reading very much is on pages 1 and 2 of the Enrolled version of SB-1 (this is the version that goes to the governor for signature).
Additional language specifically stating that nonacademic data is still required in the annual school report cards, also still required, is found on page 22 of the Enrolled SB-1.
SB-1 leaves no doubt that graduation rates, dropout rates, and the proportion of students who make successful transitions after high school are still required reporting items for the Kentucky Department of Education.
So, the fact that the education department’s key spokesperson told the Herald-Leader that SB-1 ignores reporting of nonacademic data does not engender confidence that the department is going to give this bill a good faith implementation effort. I hope legislators understand that.
Anyway, instead of grousing about whatever evils they think this bill contains or overlooks, it would be better if everyone first reads it with an open mind. Then, the people who will be putting the nuts on the bolts to make SB-1 work should take a positive attitude as they work out the process details.
Make no mistake – if these folks want SB-1 to fail, it probably will. On the other hand, if these folks want to take advantage of a great opportunity to make Kentucky’s school assessments work better for parents and students, they can make that happen instead.
It sadly seems that ruffled feathers over the demise of CATS are getting in the way of the great opportunity SB-1 presents to do a thorough rework and modernization of Kentucky’s education standards. The bill offers a chance to develop a really superior assessment and accountability program around those standards, but only if people are willing to give it a fair chance. But, putting out the wrong information will indeed lead to a lot of confusion instead of action, and that would be a very sad thing for Kentucky’s students and the commonwealth in general.