CATS Task Force Meeting 6

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Summary of CATS Task Force Meeting 6

October 29, 2008


Meeting 6 focused on proposed changes to the assessment of arts and humanities in the CATS along with yet more discussion on whether to include writing portfolios in the assessment program. There was also some discussion about the underlying standards for courses and the CATS assessment. The meeting opened with continued discussion of an elementary school pilot program to assess the arts and humanities more effectively. At present, this element in CATS is essentially just a vocabulary test, but the pilot attempted to get a more “authentic” assessment by examining such things as students’ reactions after hearing a passage of music. Unfortunately, a review of the arts and humanities pilot discussions at meeting 3 does not provide much detail about how this program would function in areas other than music. Such detail, if provided at all, is only contained in written documents presented to the task force members that were not made available to the audience at meeting 3.

As of meeting 6, despite task force requests for a cost estimate to take the arts and humanities pilot statewide in all elementary schools and to craft upper grade pilots for middle and high schools, no-one was able to produce that fiscal information. Department of Education staff members did offer some examples of how the scoring from the arts and humanities pilots might impact overall school accountability indexes. Even under the extreme case scenarios, the score changes would be slight.

In the end, the task force more or less supported moving forward to expand the arts and humanities pilot for inclusion in CATS; however, late in the meeting discussions resurfaced on the issue of costs that left doubt about whether real consensus had been truly reached. In any event, no specific language was presented or adopted to forward to either the state board of education or the legislature concerning changes to arts and humanities assessments, and it was clear that a number of hurdles remained before this change could be implemented.

The group next continued discussions on whether to maintain the writing portfolios in the state’s assessment and accountability program. As in all previous meetings, the task force members remained divided into two camps. Roger Marcum offered a proposal to keep the portfolios in the assessment but add another accountability layer with a review program that would look at the operation of each school’s portfolio system each year. That proposal quickly drew fire as just adding more cost and burdens without dealing with the main issue. That main issue is whether or not portfolios, when included in assessment, detract from teachers’ ability to effectively teach writing.

As in all past meetings, task force member Steve Steven’s request to look at the National Assessment of Educational Progress writing results was ignored.

In the end, the group drew no closer to any decisions on the clearly contentious portfolios.

One new discussion in the meeting dealt with the state’s basic education standards. It was reported by department of education staff that these are contained in two documents, the “Program of Studies,” and the “Core Content for Assessment.” The Program of Studies is an overall course description document which includes all items students should learn in each course, including some that cannot, or will not, be assessed. The Program of Studies is a separate document that lists what is “fair game” in the CATS assessments.

There was a great deal of discussion about short-comings in the current standards. For example, the charge that our math standards are a “mile wide and an inch deep” was brought out as one generally well-known example that major work is needed on at least this part of the Program of Studies and the Core Content.

It was also mentioned that due to such things as pressure from overseas, Kentucky cannot afford to wait until after 2014 to start dealing with revisions to the standards. Work needs to start now if we are not to short-change another generation of Kentucky students. A sense of urgency on revising the standards was expressed by many task force members. There was no call for an expression of consensus on this issue, however.

A small amount of time was devoted to some end of course exam pilot work being done in Algebra I & II, and Geometry. The pilots are just starting and generally have only been administered one time. Thus, full scoring standards setting has not been accomplished. In addition, funding may not be available in any event. There was no call for recommendations on the end of course exams.

Overall, with only one scheduled meeting remaining, the task force has not even touched the majority of items that were listed on early agendas for possible discussion, and there has been only a very little, rather tentative agreement, on any recommendations.

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