Monday, July 23, 2001

State doesn't want new tests

By Mark Pitsch
The Courier-Journal

        FRANKFORT — Gov. Paul Patton and state education officials are lobbying the White House and Congress to exempt Kentucky from annual testing and accountability requirements in President Bush's education plan.

        In letters sent during the past two weeks to White House officials and four Republican lawmakers from Kentucky, Mr. Patton and Kevin Noland, deputy commissioner of education, argue the testing plan — one of the president's campaign promises — is a “federally mandated one-size-fits-all” program that fails to recognize the state already has a comprehensive testing program in place.

        “It would be extremely disruptive to teaching and learning to impose yet another assessment and accountability system that is not better, just different,” one letter said.

        Most local superintendents are not involved in the state's lobbying efforts, but Susan Cook, superintendent of Kenton County Schools,said she would not support major changes to Kentucky's testing system, which was revamped just two years ago.

        “We're on a path that is helping us to continue to change and increase student achievement,” she said. “I would not want to see a different focus. One of the important things is real consistency in curriculum and instruction.”

        But at least two Kentucky lawmakers in Washington indicated they are committed to President Bush's plan.

        “My guess is their chances aren't great,” John F. Jennings, director of the National Center on Education Policy, said of the lobbying. “Congress and the White House have been pounding the table for annual testing in math and reading. How can Bush waive that if he made it a centerpiece of his campaign?”

        House and Senate negotiators began meeting last week to work out differences in their competing versions of education legislation, which establishes rules governing federal funding that helps educate disadvantaged children — about $128 million annually in Kentucky. Work on a compromise is likely to last into September.

        Both the House and Senate versions adopted President Bush's plan of annual testing in math and reading in grades three through eight, accompanied by a requirement that students in several subgroups show gains on the tests from year to year. The subgroups identify students by race, English proficiency, income and disability status.

        Kentucky's Commonwealth Accountability Testing System tests students generally on a three-year cycle. The state spends about $12 million annually on its testing program.

        The administration has said it would help states pay for additional testing.


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- State doesn't want new tests