The Bluegrass Institute – from its earliest days – has sharply criticized Kentucky’s CATS school assessments and their underlying standards. While CATS has been telling Kentucky that our school system is doing just fine, more trustworthy evidence shows otherwise.
Now, with mediocre test results piling up, especially for Kentucky’s racial minorities, it looks like more and more legislators on both sides of the aisle are starting to ‘get it.’
This was particularly evident during today’s (November 17, 2008) meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education. The Kentucky Department of Education presented the latest results from CATS and No Child Left Behind, and legislators were quick to cite unsatisfactory performance gaps for whites and other racial groups, which persist today despite nearly 19 years of education reform.
The bad news triggered the following comments about general flaws in CATS from Representative Derrick Graham of Frankfort. Said Graham about a primary need to revise the underlying standards and curriculum driving CATS,
“Number one is when we talk to our universities and our colleges and our technical people that we get their input as to say what is it that you all want our kids – where do you want the kids to be by the time they graduate from high school? We need to get their input in terms of development of a curriculum, not that’s based on the CATS testing and evaluation of the CATS testing, but is based upon preparing these kids for the next level. And, I don’t think we’ve done that.”
Right on, Representative Graham. The high proportion of college freshmen who need remedial courses makes it abundantly clear that the CATS isn’t related to what kids need next. But, it needs to be.
As legislators in the meeting reacted in dismay to more data in the department’s report, including results from ACT testing that show very few kids are on track to be ready for college, sentiment certainly seems to be growing that after all the time we’ve been doing reform, making few if any changes in CATS for another six years simply isn’t going to pass muster.