A KPI student achievement awareness campaign (an example from the Topeka Capital-Journal is here
) has prompted a few people to question whether the ads are correct. The Kansas National Education Association (KNEA) also issued a press release full of blatantly false accusations about KPI and the campaign.
It’s understandable that people might think there is something wrong with the ads. Most people reasonably believe the descriptions listed in the ads – “reads grade-appropriate material with full comprehension” and “usually performs accurately on most grade-level tasks in Math” – are the definitions of Meets Standard or Proficient.
The truth, however, is that those are the Kansas definitions of Exceeds Standard. A student does not have to read grade-appropriate material with full comprehension or usually perform all grade-level Math tasks accurately to be considered Proficient by state standards. The ads accurately reflect the percentages of 11th grade students who perform at or above the listed performance descriptors. Here are their definitions for Reading:
– when reading grade-appropriate narrative, expository, technical and persuasive text, a proficient student has satisfactory comprehension.
– when reading grade-appropriate narrative, expository, technical and persuasive text, an advanced student has full comprehension.
As we have traveled the state discussing education in public forums, we’ve found that parents and even some educators have been shocked to learn that Kansas has such low standards. (The U.S. Dept. of Education says Kansas has some of the lowest standards in the country.) An honest examination of all the facts on student achievement shows that a lot of changes are needed to help every student reach their full potential, but a false sense of high achievement is a tremendous barrier to change.
State assessment results are not the only indication that achievement is lower than most people understand. The U.S. Department of Education reports much lower proficiency levels and shows next to little progress over the last thirteen years. The ACT college-readiness measurement says only 28% of 2010 Kansas high school graduates scored high enough to be considered college-ready in English, Reading, Math and Science. KSDE says 21.1% of Kansas high school graduates who attend a Kansas university sign up voluntarily for remedial training. That all makes sense when you understand that KSDE tests show that only about half of 11th graders in Kansas have full comprehension of grade-appropriate material.
The KNEA press release deliberately misrepresents the ad content by implying that full comprehension of grade-appropriate material is the same as Proficient. KNEA may not want parents to know the truth but we’ve been sharing this information with legislators, parents and educators for nearly a year and KSDE has not denied the facts we include in the awareness campaign.
This is not about assessing blame or criticizing students and educators; we have no doubt that educators are doing their best within the confines of the current system. It’s about taking an honest look at student achievement and deciding whether the current system is producing acceptable results or whether some changes are needed. Our kids deserve nothing less.
[Editor's Note: KSDE released a revised report showing that 21.1% of Kansas high school graduates who attend a Kansas university sign up voluntarily for remedial training whereas the original report said 24.6%.]