Bill Scrapping CATS System Passes House

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Efforts to reshape Kentucky's school
accountability system gained steam Wednesday evening when the House voted overwhelmingly to scrap the tests with a catchy name that
have gauged school performance for a decade.

The 97-0 vote to eliminate the testing program known as CATS -
Commonwealth Accountability Testing System - sent the issue back to
the Senate, where majority Republicans for some time have supported
changes in the accountability tests.

Later, the Senate refused to accept the House's changes to the legislation, sending it to a conference committee to try to hash out differences.

The debate in the Democratic-led House featured a series of members with backgrounds as teachers or principals who arose to praise the efforts to remake the tests.

"It's time for a change," said Rep. Linda Belcher, D-Shepherdsville.

Under the bill, education officials would revamp the testing system by the 2011-12 academic year. In a key change, the bill would drop student writing portfolios as part of the tests. The exams also would no longer test students' arts and humanities and practical living skills.

Writing portfolios would still be expected from students as an instructional tool.

"This bill is true to the principles of education reform," said Rep. Harry Moberly, D-Richmond, who played a key role in shaping the House-passed version.

Until the new testing system is in place, the state would follow standards set by the federal law known as No Child Left Behind.

The school accountability testing system was a key facet of the monumental 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act. It's last revision came a decade ago in 1998.

Students are slotted into four performance levels based on their test scores - novice, apprentice, proficient and distinguished. Opponents have said that CATS lead teachers and schools to devoting too much classroom time to pupils' test preparation.

The House vote came just hours after the bill emerged from the House Education Committee.

Sen. Ken Winters, chairman of the Senate Education Committee, said he had not seen all the House changes but that if there were points of contention he was sure they could be ironed out by Senate and House conferees in the final days of the 2009 regular legislative session.
The legislation is Senate Bill 1.
Associated Press writer Joe Biesk contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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