Is The Dream Of KERA Over?
Is The Dream Of KERA Over? is report authored by Kentucky education analyst Richard Innes discussing the state of Kentucky's landmark education reform initiative passed in 1990: The Kentucky Education Reform Act.
A foundational goal of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) is to develop an educational system in which all students can learn at the highest level. But recent policy decisions indicate that state education officials are losing faith in KERA’s lofty ambitions.
An example is evident in the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) success in persuading lawmakers to approve House Bill 178 (HB 178) during the 2004 General Assembly. Passage of this bill led to the creation of a watered-down secondary General Educational Development (GED) program for Kentucky’s public schools.
When HB 178 was introduced, legislators were told it would merely change Kentucky’s definition of a high-school dropout to agree with the definition used by the U.S. Department of Education. By itself, manipulating dropout statistics with GED data is incompatible with KERA’s goal of increasing Kentucky’s education levels.
However, the far more serious consequences of HB 178 did not become apparent until after its passage. The legislation is being used to create a second-tier high school credential based on passing the GED test. The consequences of HB 178 are highly problematic for the following reasons:
- Education standards are lowered.
- Dropout rates are further distorted.
- Inappropriate pressures are applied to schools and students.
- The validity of the existing GED program suffers.
- There are many unresolved legal issues.
- There are no cost estimates or funding authority for the program.
What can be done?
- Legislators can repeal HB 178.
- The current GED program can be adjusted to better capture high school dropouts.
- Continue to hold Kentucky’s public schools accountable by requiring GED recipients to be considered dropouts.
- Determine if Extended School Services meets class scheduling needs for potential dropouts.
If the goal of state educators is to benefit school administrators look- \ing for ways to manipulate their dismal dropout rates and test scores, then the new GED program is the right choice. However, choosing that path represents a major policy shift that signals a belief among the state’s education leaders and lawmakers that KERA’s dream – that all of Kentucky’s children can achieve at a high level remains an elusive fantasy.