KERA TASK FORCE NEWS CONFERENCE
MONDAY, DECEMBER 15, 1997


We’ve called you here today to talk about what I believe are the most essential improvements in elementary and secondary education that need the attention of the General Assembly based on the recommendations of the Public School Task Force.

First, let me say that from my perspective, it is apparent that most elements of the Kentucky Education Reform Act are working well.

As I travel around the country and participate in national education programs, whether as chairman of the Southern Regional Education Board or chair-elect of the Education Commission on the States, I constantly hear Kentucky singled out as a model for the rest of the nation when it comes to progress in education.

Just a few weeks ago, I was in Washington to accept an award on behalf of Kentucky from the Ford Foundation and Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government for KERA as one of the most innovative government programs in the nation that should be replicated by others.

Now, I don’t mean to say that we’ve created a perfect program or that more improvement isn’t needed but in most areas there is evidence that significant progress is being made in the schools and I’m confident that progress will continue.

There are, however, several aspects of elementary and secondary education where improvements are necessary.

The most significant is in the area of assessment and accountability. We believe that changes there are essential.

We’d like to see the accountability index and formula simplified so that school improvement is more fairly represented. Their is a need to reduce or redistribute the time students spend on testing. Students who have dropped out or are potential high school drop-outs should be held accountable. The assessment process should include the progress schools make with the same students over time and provide a national comparison for individual students. Test results should be returned early enough for teachers to use them to improve instruction. The management of the assessment contract needs to be improved. We should hold individual students more accountable for their academic performance. And in addition to assessment results, we should provide parents and the local communities with information on a variety of other measures of school quality in the form of a "report card."

While We believe strongly that these improvements are necessary and should be of primary concern to the legislature in the upcoming session, We think enough progress is being made overall with KERA that we can now turn to new elementary and secondary initiatives.

These initiatives should be in the areas of improved school facilities, implementation of the technology master plan and school safety.

I’m here today to emphasize those areas of the reform that are working and those that need improvement. Members of the task force are here with me to discuss with you their perspective.