CATS Task Force Meeting 4

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CATS Task Force Meeting 3

September 30, 2008

Once again, there was no news coverage anywhere else on this ongoing Kentucky Department of Education effort.

The session started with a quick welcome from education commissioner Jon Draud, who called in by telephone from home as he is still recuperating from a recent stroke.

The initial report at this meeting concerned the committee’s request for input from educators and the public that was issued after the last meeting. Lisa Gross indicated there were about 200 e-mail responses plus more in faxed returns. Just assembling the e-mails into one Word document required 100 pages.

Gross asked the committee if it would like a printout of this file or would prefer to get an electronic version. The electronic version was selected.

Unfortunately, the document was only distributed to the committee. That makes it impossible for those who sent comments to see if what they wrote is accurately reflected in the edited document the committee received and precludes any public discussion about the comments. It’s hard to understand why this document, created for public discussion by a public committee, would be withheld.

The next issue was whether the committee wanted to hear live testimony from people who wanted to address the task force. It was pointed out that the task force has only a limited amount of time left and cannot afford to be bogged down in unsolicited presentations (Also, the public comment request provided an opportunity for individuals to transmit their thoughts to the committee). In the end, it was decided that the committee will continue to manage presentations to cover topics of interest only.

Next came a lengthy discussion about the assessment of arts and humanities in CATS. This continued deliberations from CATS Task Force Meeting 3.

The task force appears to be generally positive about a pilot arts and humanities assessment program that has been tried in some elementary schools. However, a request at the last meeting for cost estimates to implement the program statewide at all school levels went unanswered. So, in the end, the committee deferred a vote on a draft recommendation to change the arts and humanities assessment pending that cost analysis, which was now promised for meeting five.

The rest of the meeting was completely consumed by two more reports on the controversial writing portfolio program. Both presenters were portfolio proponents. They exhausted the remaining time in the meeting without allowing any time for questions, which didn’t seem to sit well with many task force members. Both presenters had good handouts. These could have saved a lot of presentation time had they been sent to the committee members prior to the actual meeting.

Anyway, perhaps as evidence of the committee’s displeasure, an attempt to see if there was any sort of consensus on portfolios was quickly shot down. Instead, the presenters were invited to the next meeting to answer questions.

Thus, after four three-hour-long meetings, task force agreement on writing remained as elusive as ever.

Even worse, some important information concerning portfolios still had not been presented to the committee. This included the national assessment material on writing requested by Steve Stevens, head of the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, at task force meeting two. As of the close of meeting four, it still has not been presented.

Thus, at the close of meeting four, only two major issues, portfolios and arts/humanities assessments, had been discussed in any detail. With a host of other items on the agenda still to be considered, it seemed clear that this committee was now well behind. With only two meetings scheduled in October, and maybe one or two more, still unscheduled at this point, for November, the committee is at least half way through with little to show for all the time expended to date.

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