CATS to be replaced with new exam

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By The Staff

FRANKFORT - The testing animal that has led education in the commonwealth of Kentucky over the past 28 years has run out of lives.

The Commonwealth Accountability Testing System, known more commonly as CATS, will basically go away with this spring’s testing cycle.

Students will still be tested in subject areas as reading, math, science, social studies and writing. Other areas will be optional.

While many praised the intent of the education reform act of 1990, the CATS portion of the assessment drew much criticism.

Bullitt County Public Schools Superintendent Keith Davis said the strides being made locally would not stop.

As a teacher and administrator, he understood the concerns of the CATS testing, which also assessed areas like practical living, arts and humanities and writing portfolios.

But he also understood the importance of being able to measure progress and having a goal to reach by 2014.

“We don’t anticipate any change in our focus,” said Davis.

All schools must still test reading and math for the federal No Child Left Behind act. A new state testing program would be in place by the 2011-12 school year.

Davis said the biggest complaint he had heard about CATS was that teachers were forced to teach for the test. Instead, he said instructors should be teaching to better student learning.

Without the pressure of reaching the CATS goal of 100 in all subject areas by 2014, Davis said there might be some time to relax.

However, he doesn’t believe there will be any problems with educators wanting to move forward with the initiatives put into place in Bullitt County.

“We are not slowing down,” said Davis.

Assessment programs such as Think Link would continue and teachers would still be expected to look at individual students and see what areas they need extra assistance in.

One of the past complaints with CATS has been the testing is done up to a month before the end of school and it takes until September or October to get results back.

Davis said the only drawback of stopping the CATS program is that students didn’t have enough time to show that the recent changes are working.

With the district failing to meet the federal NCLB standards, Davis said there is plenty of work still to be done.

“Our principals are not going to let up,” said Davis.

State Sen. Gary Tapp said he was pleased that Senate Bill 1 received approval by both chambers.

Over the years, Tapp said many teachers expressed concerns about the time they spent teaching the tests.

And for students, the CATS does nothing to help them get into college - since the ACT and SAT scores are used for admission.

Tapp isn’t expecting any momentum to be lost with the demise of CATS.