Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bob Sexton: OK kids…take a breather!

Sharon Oxendine, president of KEA, says in the Louisville Courier-Journal that for the next three years we should “just give everybody a breather” from being accountable for student learning except NCLB math and reading.

So, according to a new CATS law, supported by KEA, teachers don’t have to worry so much about writing, science, history, geography, economics, civics or the arts since they don’t count for school accountability.

And I guess she thinks students should take a breather too (this is all about the kids, remember!).

Maybe she’s onto something.

Maybe we should take a breather from worrying about adequate funding for Kentucky schools and from complaining that we’re investing $1,500 per student below the national average.


  1. When I read Sharon's quote about "just give everybody a breather", my first thought was about my daughter who is a high school freshman, who will be finishing her K-12 schooling during this three year "breather", and how this will affect her. I don't want my daughter taking a breather. So just who is the "everybody" that she speaks of?

    My next thought was, gee, if she wants a breather, then maybe she needs a different profession.....and please let me know what that profession is that lets you take a breather from accountability for three years!

    I don't know Sharon and I hope that she was misquoted, but if she wasn't I sure would like for her to elaborate on that statement because the lack of thoughtful tansition language sure puts a tarnish on this legislation.

  2. Actually she meant exactly what she said and she said it for all of us who have been in education long enough to realize that good teaching and learning happened prior to and will occur after CATS. In my 23 years as a teacher and administrator I have seen many talented young teachers leave the profession because of the unrealistic demands placed on them and their students. If the purpose of CATS was to make us more accountable in the tested areas it was successful. We were more accountable. It forced many of us to sacrifice quality teaching in an effort to get it all covered. Most educators are respectable professionals and want what is best for kids. We are not looking for an easy way out. CATS is not the answer today and it has not been the answer for the last..too many years!

  3. No matter how many times you weigh the cow, weighing it won't produce more milk.

  4. Sorry, Anonymous, you still haven't given me a valid reason why the whole KY system of accountability has been thrown out the window until we figure out how to hold schools accountable in three years. This has nothing to do with what is tested on the KCCT.

    If good teaching and learning happened before CATS, did our black students just get smarter over the past 10 years? Because in 1999 the % of black students who were proficient/distinguished in 4th grade reading was 32%, and in 2008 it was 57%. Or did accountability drive better teaching practices? In 10th grade we went from 11% of black students prof/dist in 1999 to 43% prof/dist in 2008. Our students receiving a free/reduced price lunch got smarter too - 12% of 10th graders were prof/dist in reading in 1999; 47% of them were prof/dist in reading in 2008!

    When I started in the profession of being an education advocate in 1999 I witnessed firsthand administrators who purposely left the low SES urban black students who were bused to an suburban elementary school behind on an annual field trip because their busses got to the school too late and no one wanted to wait. No one really saw a problem with leaving these kids behind, and I mean literally left behind, sitting in a classroom all day doing busy work while their white and affluent black classmates went on the field trip without them.

    In 2008, that no longer happens.

    I'm not arguing with you that CATS was a mile wide and an inch deep and it taxed teachers. I don't have a problem with the legislation except for the transistion language. What I am arguing is that if people (not just teachers) aren't held accountable, stuff happens to some kids that shouldn't.

  5. It is extremely unfortunate that the legislature is willing to abandon accountability via testing for three years. As one who served on a local school board for 16 years in a very challenged district, where with all the support for pursuing improvement we still struggled to make significant progress, I shudder to think where we would have been without the structure and demands of KERA. This is a step backward for education in Kentucky - at a time when we cannot afford it. The world is moving ahead, and we are going to be left behind if we are unwilling to discipline ourselves to pursue the difficult. I know many good, successful teachers who have not left the profession because of the demands of reform, but who have mastered its approach and given their students the benefit. We must continue to push ourselves. Our kids deserve no less, and in fact, our statewide community needs it.

  6. Have you heard, "don't throw out the baby with the bath water"? CATS may need to be reviewed and revised but KY schools have improved in test scores. Perhaps it is the accountability and expectations for better performance from teachers and "all" students that has become too difficult. Until a better system is determined we better continue in a positive direction. COMMON SENSE!

  7. In a time of worldwide economic decline, when so many of our "brightest" have proven to be so reckless andunaccountable, the Kentucky State Legislature has chosen to co-opt the same operational model. Can Kentucky, of all places, afford to take a "breather" while the rest of the country and the world attempts to "think" us out of this economic malaise? It would save a lot of money if we shut down the state legislature for a year or two; after they get the road budget completed.

  8. I am wondering whom on this blog actually work day to day with students. Those who do already know that our best educational practices do not come from our CATS scores. Our best practices come from continous monitoring and assessment. Each year a I have a totally different group of children enter my classroom. Each child is different and each group is different. I do what I can to meet the needs of each individual student. I monitor and assess them throughout the year through various methods. I then plan my future lessons according to what the STUDENTS need. Testing the whole group a the end of the year does little to drive my current instruction.

    Although CATS testing provides us with a "view" of student achievement, it is just one of many tools teachers use to assess their students.

    I believe "take a breather" actually means step back and take a look at what we really want students to accomplish. Just as I have thrown out less effective teaching methods for better ones over the years, we need to throw out CATS and make a fresh accountability system that is both cost and time effective. Teachers will now gain more instructional time rather than spending weeks on testing! As a classroom teacher I am thrilled to get the time back!!!!

  9. We've got a three-year serious problem about curriculum focus, in which schools won't have an incentive to teach important subjects, and really will have an incentive to strip down to only the two that count.

    After that, though, we're headed toward leaner standards, better help for teachers to track individual students during the year, and a better shot at the classroom practices that we already know work best for student achievement.

    What do those practices look like? Anonymous @ 1:21 just described it in a nutshell: "Each child is different and each group is different. I do what I can to meet the needs of each individual student. I monitor and assess them throughout the year through various methods. I then plan my future lessons according to what the STUDENTS need."

    In the long run, SB 1 will make it easier for teachers who already do that to keep it up and easier for teachers who aren't yet there to move to that best-practice approach.

    I hate the transition, but I truly think the step after that will be a plus for students and teachers.

    I'm happy to cross this river, and only wish we had better stepping stones on the way across.

  10. Students ultimately decide his/her own path, teachers just guide them. In my experience, many parents have unfortunately taken a lifelong breather from the best interest of his/her child's education. Are they held accountable? Methods of assessing one's intelligence and knowledge must evolve along with everything else; however, micromanaging the process is not the answer. It seems to be another way to keep tabs on student progress compared to the competition. Stepping back and reassessing helps sew the moral fabric of America's seams together.



Updates and data on Kentucky education!