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Kansas Students' Scores On State Tests Hold Steady

Kansas State Department of Education

About 41 percent of Kansas students are meeting grade-level expectations in English language arts and 34 percent in math, the State Department of Education announced Wednesday.

The 2016 results are statistically comparable to 2015, the year Kansas switched to new tests aligned with more rigorous learning standards.

“We did not see – and we realized we will not see – any dramatic spikes in our state assessment scores, not like what we saw in the past under No Child Left Behind,” says KSDE spokeswoman Denise Kahler.

Kansas uses four levels to score student performance, with the top two indicating a student is on track for college or career.

Credit Kansas State Department of Education
Kansas State Department of Education

This year, more students performed at the highest and lowest levels.

Kahler says that might be because Kansas used an adaptive assessment for the first time.

“The assessment we gave in 2015 was what we call a ‘fixed form.’ That means every student received the same mix of test items designed to measure depth of knowledge, but the assessment itself did not shift up or down,” Kahler says.

Kahler says of course the education department is concerned about the number of students who aren’t meeting grade-level expectations. At the same time, she says Kansas parents have spoken.

“Consistently, what we were hearing was we need our students better prepared with life skills, with the non-academic skills,” Kahler says. “Perseverance, social skills, reliability, to show up at work on time. Academics alone can’t ensure a student’s success.”

Kansas adopted Common Core, a set of nationally-crafted academic standards, in 2010. Those standards have since been rebranded as the Kansas College and Career Ready Standards. The state wrote its own assessment.

Next year, Kahler says students will take a shorter test that is benchmarked to the ACT, allowing Kansas to compare results with other states.

Elle Moxley is a reporter for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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