The paucity of recommendations from the KDE’s Assessment and Accountability Task Force is a travesty.
Three of the recommendations, (1) using formative assessments in the classroom, (2) fixing our weak assessment standards and (3) properly training teachers for their role in assessment are things we should have been doing for years. Because this hasn’t happened after 18 years of KERA, there is little reason to suspect that having the task force call, yet again, for this to happen will lead to any meaningful improvement.
The fourth recommendation – do a better job of evaluating the arts and humanities – is a nice idea, but the task force never completed its homework by getting cost data for implementation, which could be a prohibitive killer in this austere funding climate.
Bottom line: even the few recommendations from this largely ineffective effort are likely to make much difference for Kentucky’s students. So, forget the task force. Its vague and repetitive recommendations don’t say very much.
But, the failure to come to grips with CATS tells us that allowing the KDE to manage this group just wasted another year while students still don’t get the assessment program, and in too many cases the educations, they need.
In any event, there is plenty wrong with CATS, and legislators know it. Last week’s meeting of the Interim Joint Committee on Education brought that home loud and clear. Of course, with press coverage of education issues all but extinct in the commonwealth, you have to come to this blog or our new Wiki at www.freedomkentucky.org to learn anything about what is happening.
For example, the media never made a single task force meeting, which says a bundle about how important the state’s news editors viewed the task force in the larger scheme of things.
I don’t recall seeing any press coverage of last week’s contentious meeting of the Interim Joint Education Committee, either. So, here’s a bit more on that, to add to my previous comments.
Both sides of the aisle jumped on a Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) report about the CATS and NCLB scores for 2008. Among other things, legislators zeroed in with displeasure on the persistent wide education gaps for minorities. The people who will ultimately make the decisions certainly didn’t sound happy about gaps and with CATS in general for failing to disclose them the way NCLB does.
There also is extensive ire about the obvious disconnect between CATS scores and college remediation rates. Senator Tim Shaughnessy, among others, was irate that the new tests from the ACT and our freshman college remediation rates show CATS is disconnected from what kids really need.
Representative Derrick Graham echoed and expanded on those sentiments, as mentioned in the previous blog. Graham specifically noted that schools prepare kids for CATS, but not for college. He clearly understands the disconnect between whatever CATS tests and what colleges want.
Graham was joined by fellow African-American Senator Gerald Neal in deploring the gap situation. Neal said he was almost speechless, finding the report depressing. He pointed out we have been going at this “since forever,” yet the gaps continue. Under Neal’s questioning, the KDE’s Ken Draut admitted that while there were some good examples of schools doing well with poor kids, that there were fewer examples of schools fixing the African-American gaps.
Representative Jim DeCesare pointed out that a CATS score of 85 isn’t terribly impressive performance. He says we need to do much better than that, something the Bluegrass Institute has extensively discussed in many publications and YouTubes.
Representative Alicia Webb-Edgington asked what was being done to fix the continuing 20 point gaps. Deputy Commissioner of Education Elaine Farris agreed that the gaps are indeed very large. She also admitted that some kids do not get exposed to the core curriculum in our schools and suffer from a culture of low expectations. That wasn’t mentioned in CATS Task Force meetings, as far as I recall.
Adding to the general tenor of strong displeasure, Representative Addia Wuchner pointed out there is an obvious disconnect in CATS, and the statistics are our kids. Says Wuchner, “It is time for dramatic reform of the reform.”
And, that seemed to pretty well sum up the overall tenor of the education committee members. So, forget the CATS task force. I doubt that even a little of the little it recommended will ever pass by a legislator’s way.