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Goodbye CATS, hello progress!

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By The Staff

CATS has breathed its last breath.

After several attempts in recent years, Kentucky lawmakers have finally agreed on a plan to hammer the final nail in the CATS coffin.

So, after 10 years of working toward the 2014 proficiency goal, we’re changing course. Sounds kinda discouraging, doesn’t it?

But the fact is that stuffing CATS back in the bag could be the boost that education in Kentucky needs.

In the interest of full disclosure, I do not have children in the school systems and CATS was implemented several years after I had graduated. So, while I have no firsthand experience, I do have opinions. And we all know that someone doesn’t have to have any real knowledge of a subject to have an opinion about it.

So, here’s mine.

My biggest complaint with CATS is the writing portfolio component. Students write portfolio pieces and then they rewrite them and then rewrite them again before finally completing them. They get so many second chances that it is hard for me to believe that the final result truly belongs to the student. What good does that do them? What have they really learned?

The new assessment would place more emphasis on the students’ own work and would be a better representation of their writing abilities.

One common complaint about CATS is that it eats up too much class time. Senate Bill 1 would cut the test time in half, giving students five days for testing at the end of the school year. The entire testing window would be 14 days.

This would give students more time for other things like ... I don’t know ...  learning.

The most important part of the new assessment is that it will allow school officials to track students’ year-to-year progress on the test, a much-needed apples-to-apples approach.

CATS only compared progress at the same grade level - this year’s fourth grade class compared to last year’s fourth grade class. This tracked the success of teachers more than the success of students.

So, while CATS didn’t do any harm to Kentucky’s education system, it is time to upgrade our standards. Lawmakers have done that and in three years, the new assessment system will be in place. Let’s hope it is the system that Kentucky needs.

James Roberts is a staff writer for the Central Kentucky News-Journal in Campbellsville.