Thursday, January 08, 2009

David Williams takes on CATS

I still haven't seen it yet, but on KET's "Kentucky Tonight," State Senate President David Williams apparently called for dumping CATS and changing math education. Williams voted for the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA), so he can't exactly be labeled a fire-breathing anti-KERAite. Good credentials for the person who takes on some of the excesses that still plague Kentucky schools as a result of what many of us at the time labeled a boondoggle.

KERA simply never has been able to live up to the hype which has always surrounded it. Has there been progress in Kentucky schools? Here and there. But, as Larry Forgy pointed out at the time (and he was one of the plaintiffs in the case that prompted the State Supreme Court's Rose decision), there were a lot of good things already afoot before KERA turned the state's schools upside down.

The question is whether Kentucky schools would have been better off without KERA. We'll never know the answer for sure, but it wouldn't be a hard case to make that the entire generation of children who were robbed of a decent education in basic skills by the now somewhat etiolated nongraded primary program were ill-served.

And then there was the preposterous attempt to teach math using "math essays," thanks to "math portfolios" in which students were not even allowed to write numerals, but were to spell out each number. And the ludicrous attempt to teach writing by preventing teachers from telling kids how to correct their mistakes, thanks to the writing portfolios. We could go on.

The chief role of CATS has been to hide from ourselves the consequences of this interminable educational silliness.

Williams faces an uphill fight since there are still people who have a political stake in propping up KERA. But surely there will come a time when the Fathers of the Kentucky Education Reform Act have died out, and more level-headed generation takes its place.

May that time come soon.

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