Friday, April 10, 2009

KBE, Karem, and the primary program

David Karem, a mighty supporter of Kentucky education and education reform, has just been named to the Kentucky Board of Education. Karem' sharp analysis and fierce impatience will be a mighty plus.

I vividly remember Karem in a Senate hearing, grilling Deputy Commissioner Lois Adams-Rodgers on the status of the primary program. Adams-Rodgers was in a tricky position trying to describe why a law that said now wasn't all the way working now. Karem understood it all, wanted it all, and wanted it implemented yesterday.

With Karem back on the job, we may hear serious questions about continuous progress and appropriate instruction again. With Karem doing the asking, I recommend that state and district leaders get ready to provide answers.


  1. Susan,

    I agree that Karem is a solid appointment.

    But is there some move afoot to resurrect the primary program, and I'm just not hearing anything about it? Or is this more of a philosophical discussion?

    Generally speaking, six of the seven essential attributes of the primary program were a good idea.

    Developmentally appropriate educational practices; check.
    Authentic assessment; check.
    Qualitative reporting methods; fine.
    Professional teamwork; essential.
    Positive parent involvement; you bet.
    Continuous progress; absolutely the right idea, but tough to implement.

    But multiage and multiability classrooms?

    Perhaps. But only if those classes are supported by other parts of the system that aren't graded and teachers can receive proper training. That should include schools that teachers can visit where the program is working as designed so that teachers can get their questions answered.

    Last time I asked KDE for places to go to see the program working they couldn't recomend any.

    If Karem wishes to grill anyone this time around he may find himself, as a board member, in a much different position. Perhaps he will see it as his responsibility to provide the answers he previously sought. If so, I hope he and his fellow board members will fully support whatever programs they advocate.

    In the end, if it doesn't work in the classroom - it doesn't work.


  2. Richard,

    In 1998, the right approach would have been to abandon, delete, and quit talking about multiage. At the same moment, we should have renewed focus on the other attributes and started major new work on helping people implement the continuous progress element that is hardest and most important.

    Instead, we kept them all on paper, and abandoned them all in practice.

    Putting Karem back in the mix means hearing again from someone who was actively concerned about all the critical attributes. I'm betting, based on his past advocacy, that he's be disturbed by how dead they are.

    I hope (but don't assume) that he'll see that multiage is the wrong fight. The other attributes deserve new energy, and David Karem may be the man to bring it.

    (I haven't heard any talk of reviving primary as such. Developmentally sound continuous progress is good instruction, and and I'll happily call it by any name that gets it better support.)

  3. Susan,

    I think we can agree on all of that.

    And to be fair, I think KDE (and likely pro-KERA legislators) reacted to multi-aging with a singular focus, in part, because some teachers were openly threatening to defy the law.

    Perhaps Karem will revive a larger conversation about what constitutes high quality instruction for our youngest students. That's always a conversation worth having.



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