Problems with Older Students, and Kansans Expectations

As mentioned here before, America’s education system does so-so in the early years of school, then falls behind as move closer to the final grade of high school.

The Kansas City Star tells us this morning about a report that confirms this idea.

According to The Education Trust, student gains at the early grades don’t always continue in later grades.

”For years we have approached education as if it were immunization,”said Kati Haycock, The Education Trust’s director. “If we just get the kids early and get it right, we can immunize them against later school failure. . . But education is more like nutrition: You have to get it right early and keep getting it right.”

The article points out a problem with low expectations. There are two common ways of evaluating student performance: the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) and state-written tests. Unfortunately, some states are much more liberal in what they count as a “proficient” score. Kansas is among those states:

In Kansas, for example, 85 percent of the fourth-graders who took the state math test last year were proficient. But only 47 percent were judged proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress tests, which are sometimes called the nation’s report card.

Less than half on the national test, but 85 percent on the state’s own test? Someone’s got some explaining to do.

The deputy education commissioner of Kansas, Alexa Posny, said the state chose to align its test with the “basic” rather than the “proficient” level on the national test. Children scoring at that basic level can still read and do basic math, said Posny, who also said the state has room for improvement.

If so, Kansas policy makers made the worse choice. If you look at the definition, “basic” reflects a fragmentary knowledge and ability. Defenders of the status quo suggest that no changes are necessary; Kansas schools are superior. But perhaps this line of argument would be less powerful if people understood just how weak the expectations really are.

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