In 1992, a KBE regulation specified the "critical attributes" for the program: developmentally appropriate educational practices, multiage and multiability classrooms, continuous progress, authentic assessment, qualitative reporting methods, professional teamwork, and positive parent involvement. The same regulation required schools to submit annual reports on what was working and what would be improved the next year--and that regulation is still on the books.
In 1998, a new statute added these directions:
Each school council or, if none exists, the school shall determine the organization of its ungraded primary program including the extent to which multiage groups are necessary to implement the critical attributes based on the critical attributes and meeting individual student needs.That should have worked. It should have allowed schools do anything that worked about the ages of kids in each classroom (the multiage attribute in red above), provided they gave children continuous progress (in green above) and the other attributes in the list.
It didn't work. I haven't heard a live discussion of critical attributes in a decade. The Department stopped collecting school reports long ago, claiming that the needed thinking would surely be somewhere inside comprehensive school improvement plan, but making it quite clear they did not plan to go looking. If any part of KERA died "not with a bang, but with a whimper," it was primary. Where primary lives on, it's by the choice of educators who believe in it, not by any genuine state requirement.
So, can we get all young children classrooms where their progress is checked steadily and their learning activities are regularly adjusted to make sure they keep moving forward? I think we can.
From the state level, clearer standards and more focused preparation for new teachers are on the way, and from the local level, there's rising interest in balanced assessment and the student growth it can promote. If we can combine those two, and especially if we add a new commissioner ready to focus on effective instruction, we can deliver for students.
Only we won't call it primary, and we won't even mention current law as we get it done.