Friday, October 23, 2009

Governor Beshear at the Rose Symposium

Governor Steve Beshear was at the Brown Hotel Wednesday night, addressing a symposium on the twentieth anniversary of Rose v. Council for Better Education. The 1989 Rose decision declared Kentucky's public school system to be in violation of the constitutional provision requiring "an efficient system of common schools," and directed the legislature to rebuild the system from the ground up. From the notes I took during his speech, here are a few key points.

The Governor described Rose as “much bigger than a legal case” and as important because “twenty years ago, Kentucky really took a stand against failure…. Twenty years ago Kentucky realized it wasn’t prepared for the competitive world we were facing.”

Naturally, he then turned to his new initiative to “rekindle that enthusiasm,” and to remarks quite similar to others he gave this week about how that will work, both in relation to new competitive challenges and in relation to other recent developments like Senate Bill 1 and race to the top. I couldn’t do that description justice, but I will highlight two things.

First, the Governor called for “assessment that measures what employers value,” meaning capacities like problem-solving, teamwork, and effective application of knowledge. He’s right that those capacities are important and undervalued in current assessments. Still, remembering our earlier efforts with performance events, I’m not sure there’s any form of standardized activity—the sort of thing we’d count as a reliable assessment—that can really judge that sort of work. In short, I see an important puzzle with no quick-to-hand solutions. To me, some version of a school inspection system for sound instruction seems more likely to succeed than an attempt to measure student results on those issues directly.

Second, the Governor point out that “added funding” is not on his list of issues for study, saying both that “everyone knows we need to invest more" and we "don't need a task force" to figure that out. Further, "this current recession will not allow that right now. “ The governor's goal will be more modest: continuing to resist cuts to the SEEK formula for two more years, including 2012 when the stimulus money will all be gone. After that, when revenue should rebound to the 2008 level, he wants the TEK task force to have identified priorities for increased education spending and built political commitment to support those increases.

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