Initially, Martin’s dragon tempted small children with dangerous elixirs called “valued outcomes.” Next, it ate several hundred educators when it caught them teaching spelling, and later still, it set fire to an entire village because a couple of local citizens dared suggest using multiple-choice questions in statewide testing.
The real reform story has been dull by comparison. On valued outcomes, legislators agreed in 1994 not to test for self-sufficiency, teamwork, and other marks of good character. On spelling, my oldest started waking me up for pre-dawn drills in 1995, and I know exactly which word my youngest missed at his schoolwide bee in 2007. On multiple-choice, we started accountability testing in 1992 and were working on adding multiple-choice items by 1996.
In Martin’s looking-glass commonwealth, the KERA-dragon cast educational spells far beyond the skills of the left-wing sorcerers of Berkeley, California, and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
In our real state, our elected leaders (from places like Richmond, Prestonsburg, Liberty, Burkesville, and Danville) voted in the Kentucky Education Reform Act. KERA delivered stronger and fairer school funding, reduced political corruption, and vastly improved facilities and technology. It nurtured more focused teachers, better instructional leaders, and a big step up in justified pride in public education. We've still got work ahead to strengthen classroom work, not because the primary program, extended school services, or sustained professional development were mistakes, but because we didn’t put in the hard work to help them succeed.
Martin’s fascinating narrative ended recently, with the final installment ("The Death of KERA") published here at his Vere Loqui blog. I admit to preferring the old song where:
A dragon lives forever but not so little boysStill, if slaying his personal Puff frees Martin to focus on strengthening the schooling he supports, I wish him all the best.
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys
Myself, I'll keep doing my best to build up the public schools of our beloved commonwealth, along with thousands of educators, parents, and engaged citizens. While I’m working on that, I do hope Martin will stop by my own choice of "headquarters." The lights are on, the coffee’s hot, and the (magic-free) muffins are truly delicious.