Stand by a moment and we’ll get to the more-complicated context behind this well-known indictment on the Kansas City Public Schools: 70 percent of its students scored less than proficient in reading on Missouri’s state tests a year ago.
But first, here’s what one deeply invested district administrator had to say about it:
“That doesn’t mean 70 percent of our children can’t read!”
The frustration simmers over an often-overlooked factor: States’ proficiency standards are not alike.
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They vary, even widely.
Insight into the difficulty Missouri schools face compared to, say, Kansas schools, returns this week when the National Center for Education Statistics releases an analysis of state proficiency standards.
The predominant measure in such comparisons takes the percentage of students who scored at a proficient level on each state’s tests and compares that to how well their state performed on the National Assessment of Educational Progress.
Missouri’s tests, past analyses have shown, are hard.
A report by Harvard Kennedy School professor Paul E. Peterson gave Missouri an “A” for its rigor and ranked it eighth in the nation.
Kansas, in the same ranking, came in 41st and was given a “D+.”
Missouri school districts have been rowing against a stiffer current when it comes to earning those report card grades set by the state.
Across the state line, the Shawnee Mission School District, like the rest of Johnson County’s districts, scored some impressive numbers on past Kansas assessments.
Kansas divided its performance levels five ways: “academic warning,” “approaches the standard,” “meets the standard,” “exceeds the standard” and “exemplary.”
Shawnee Mission in 2014 saw 89 percent of its students score in “meets the standard” or better in reading.
In Missouri, where there are four categories — “below basic,” “basic,” “proficient” and “advanced” — Kansas City saw 28 percent of its students score proficient or better in reading in 2014.
Big difference, 89 to 28. But not as big considering Kansas’ statewide average for meeting the standard was 85 percent, and Missouri’s average for proficiency was 53 percent on harder-scored tests.
So go the more-complicated details.
But this much is still simple, the frustrated administrator agreed: Kansas City has a lot of ground to make up. A big gap to fill.
Just remember the context.