The majority of Kansas public school students are not on track to be ready for college, based on results of new state assessments in English and math released Tuesday.
Only 41.9 percent of the students tested in English met academic expectations for their grade level and showed they are making enough progress for college, according to the state. In math, 34 percent scored that well.
“We must do better,” said Scott Smith, director of career, standards and assessment services for the Kansas Education Department.
The Kansas Board of Education released the statewide data showing how the 260,000 elementary, middle and high school students who were tested last spring scored on new and more rigorous assessments.
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The Kansas College and Career Ready assessment tests were designed to measure how well students are meeting multistate Common Core standards that had been adopted in 2010.
“This is just one data point, just a slice of the whole child, just the academic side,” Smith said when he presented the test scores to the state board.
The test results show four levels of performance, with level four the highest. Students in that category test above expectations for their grade and are well on track for college.
Level three shows a student is meeting academic expectations and is on track for college.
The lowest level indicates a student is performing below grade level, while the second category indicates a student is at grade level but not on track for college.
In English language arts, at least half of the students in the third, sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th grades landed in the two lowest performance levels.
Students in grades four and five made a better showing in that subject, with more than 50 percent scoring in the top two levels and being on course to be college ready.
In math, the scores showed that less than 36 percent of the students at every grade level except third scored in the two high levels. More than 50 percent of third-grade students hit the top levels in math.
This is the first year for the Kansas College and Career Ready assessments, which will set the baseline for measuring academic progress in future years. Because the test was revised and was more rigorous, scores can’t be compared to last year’s testing, education officials said.
Unlike previous assessments, the latest testing required students to do more than answer basic multiple choice questions.
“Students were required, for example, to highlight passages of text and plot graphs in order to demonstrate their knowledge and critical thinking skills,” according to a Kansas Education Department statement on the assessment results.
About 150 Kansas teachers were asked to agree on a cutoff score for each of the four performance levels.
Education Commissioner Randy Watson said those teachers “were not afraid to set performance standards high. … They are committed to doing what’s right and that’s raising the bar on what students should know and be able to demonstrate to meet the demands of today’s world.”
Kansas Board of Education members said that although it’s hard to see so many of the state’s students scoring in the lowest two levels, they believe that the more rigorous standards will put children in a better position to compete globally after high school.
“This is about building a well-educated citizenry,” said Jim McNiece, chairman of the board. “It will be an ever-evolving program that will be designed to meet the needs of our students.”
Next month, parents will receive a letter indicating how their student scored on the assessments. School by school test data will be made public in December.
Room for improvement
In English, 41.9 percent of the students tested met academic expectations for their grade level.
In math, 34 percent were on track.