Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Time to Put CATS to Sleep

Richard Day over at Kentucky School News and Comments offers coverage of Gov. Steve Beshear's press conference today attacking Senate Bill 1 , which would replace the controversial CATS test, saying, "The governor said the proposal has multiple flaws, and called on lawmakers to reject it."

Uh, wait a minute. Isn't that the exact argument being used against the CATS tests in the first place?

Bad choice of words, no doubt. But it does point up the incredible double standard going on here. Why are flaws in a bill an argument against the bill, but flaws in CATS--which have been pointed out, documented, argued over, fussed about, bemoaned, and, of course, swept under the rug--are not considered an argument against CATS?

Let's just cover briefly several qualities a test should have that CATS doesn't have:

  • Objectivity
  • Accuracy on an individual student level
  • Reliability
  • Ability to receive scores back in a reasonable amount of time
  • Promotes basic skills

Now if you were told that a test you were considering didn't have these qualities, what in the world would possess you to use it? And how could you justify spending millions of dollars and countless man hours on the part of teachers and administrators to administer it?

Despite having no good answer to this question, we are still spending way too much money on the test, and there are still people willing to risk their credibility to defend it.

Go figure.

1 comment:

Richard Day said...

Hey Martin.

I was going to log on anonymously and say a bunch of ugly stuff...just to hack off Rep. Tim Couch...but thought better of it.

FYI: My 'quote" is actually a quote from the Unlike most bloggers, I aggregate a bunch of news from other sources and comment when I feel like it. I cited KyPost, but it's not always to catch who's who on a quick read.

But, you ask the right question.

CATS is flawed. Why not replace it?

Perhaps we should. I have been as critical of CATS as the next guy, (unless the next guy is Dick Innes - he's got me beat).

But I know first-hand the difference it makes in the schools to have an accountability system that holds school folks' feet to the fire when it comes to the performance of ALL students. Because half of the kids are always below the mean on a normative assessment, teachers can always hide behind averages and blame parents for their children's poor performance. Sometimes blaming parents is appropriate - but not as a general principle.

Before KERA, it was fully acceptable for a third of our students to fail. It is that accountability that must be maintained and the "fix" suggested in Senate Bill 1 won't fix it.

Change CATS. But make sure it's better when youre done.