Franklin County

House unveils CATS student testing reform

FRANKFORT — A House bill to revamp Kentucky's controversial CATS student testing system got its first public airing late Thursday before the House Education Committee.

House Bill 508's many provisions include: replacing the CATS system, but not until after the 2010-2011 school year; revising all state academic standards in a phased process starting next year; and aligning core content at all levels, as well as aligning high school academic core content with college requirements.

While the current testing program would continue through 2011, writing portfolios would be removed from accountability this year. Portfolios would be retained, however, as instructional tools from primary through 12th grade.

The measure is the House's response to Senate Bill 1, which would rework CATS by eliminating open-response questions and taking out portfolios. The Senate has already passed SB 1.

Most of the Education Committee session was devoted to a detailed explanation of HB 508 by its lead sponsor, state Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond.

Moberly said he would have preferred to leave CATS unchanged through 2014, when all Kentucky students are supposed to achieve proficiency status. But he said there had been "such a hue and cry" over CATS that he thought change was necessary.

HB 508 got a generally warm response from committee members. But while Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, offered some praise, he said he wanted language added to strengthen portfolios. He said he feared writing would be de-emphasized.

No vote was taken during the meeting, which ran into Thursday night. But committee members said they'll continue to "tinker" with the bill, pending their next meeting on Tuesday.

"This is an extremely important bill, and we want to make sure we get it right," said state Rep. Carl Rollins, D-Midway, the committee chairman.

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