Beshear Does Major Flip-Flopping On SB 1

A couple days ago I may have mentioned my frustration with the Transforming Education in Kentucky talks. It’s pretty easy to understand why after discovering how deeply involved both Sylvia Lovely and Helen Mountjoy are in the so-called transformation.

But after last night’s forum? I’m struck by just how ridiculous the entire affair was.

Steve Beshear spent plenty of time praising Senate Bill 1:

You may view the entire hour-long program by clicking here.

And that necessitates a trip down the Papaw Beshear wormhole to a time when he and the infamous Helen Mountjoy were trashing SB1 left and right.

Here’s a press release from Wednesday, March 5, 2008:

Governor Beshear Announces Opposition to Senate Bill 1

FRANKFORT, KY (March 5, 2008) – Gov. Steve Beshear today announced his opposition to Senate Bill 1, which would eliminate the Commonwealth Accountability Testing System (CATS) and replace it with multiple choice tests developed for national use.

“Although we’ve made measurable progress in student achievement over the last decade and a half, public education in Kentucky is not yet where it needs to be,” Beshear said. “This bill will not help us get there.”

CATS is considered the heart of the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) for which Beshear has long been and remains a steadfast supporter. KERA called for increased education funding, more than a dozen new strategies to improve student achievement and an assessment and accountability system to keep progress on track.

“Before KERA our students scored in the bottom two to three states in numerous education measures,” Beshear said. “We are ranked among the middle states in achievement today. But we still have much to do, and it’s not time to get distracted from our goals.”

Education Secretary Helen Mountjoy agreed.

“Although we have not moved as fast or as far as we would have liked, the fault does not lie with CATS,” Mountjoy said. “It gives us a valid and reliable assessment of where students are today. There is no doubt that the hard work of students, educators, parents, the business community and the General Assembly has led to higher student achievement.”

The governor said he did not see either KERA or CATS as “sacred cows” that could not be improved. KERA has undergone numerous changes since its creation, and its testing system has undergone at least a dozen major alterations in the last five years alone, he said.

But Senate Bill 1 hasn’t even allowed the most recent change, made two years ago, to have an opportunity to prove its worth yet, Beshear said. Nor has the bill undergone rigorous and public analysis.

Such a review would have revealed its flaws, the governor said.

For example, Senate Bill 1:

  • Abandons the KERA notion that all students can and should become proficient. Instead, it relies on off-the-shelf tests designed to measure half the students as “above average” and half as “below average.” Instead of pursuing measurable and identifiable learning and performance standards, students pursue scores to measure against each other.
  • Eliminates test questions requiring students to explain what they know and apply that knowledge to solving problems. Instead, it substitutes multiple choice questions that promote memorizing and guesses.
  • Jeopardizes Kentucky’s compliance with the strict guidelines of the federal No Child Left Behind Act. That risks Kentucky’s Title I allocation at a time when it needs every education dollar it can find.
  • Ignores the professional judgment of Kentucky educators. Currently they determine the state’s Core Content, develop questions for the assessment and score open-response items and writing portfolios that count in the school’s scores. Senate Bill 1 instead relies on an out-of-state test that is not aligned with Kentucky’s curriculum.

Beshear called on legislators to reject the bill.

“And I urge everyone involved in education to redouble our efforts to ensure all Kentucky students – no matter where they live or what school they attend – are given the opportunity to learn the things that will lead to success not only at the next academic level but in their adult lives as well.”


Forgive me for not trusting much of what the governor had to say last night.