One-third of students are at grade level

State and local education officials tout improved scores on the state’s assessments. The implied message: We’re doing a great job, the only thing that needs to change is that you need to give us more money.

But the numbers aren’t necessarily what they seem.  A report from Education Week suggests that high school graduation rates in the state are overstated. If you compare tests on the NAEP with state assessments, you’ll find reasons to think that the numbers on state assessments are overly rosy as well.

Here  are some comments I recently left at Wichita Liberty about this subject.

The state NAEP results gives a scale score, which is a number . It also gives the percentage of students who are proficient.

Consider a classroom in which the average score is a B, which the teacher gives to students who score 80 to 89 percent correct. In one year, the average raw score is 83, and in the next, it’s 88. In both years, the letter grade is the same: B.

NCES, a unit of the U.S. Department of Education, has historical data for the national test as well as for states. It looks like Ed has made it more difficult than it was in the past to find the information.

1. Go to this link:
2. Click on “Accessible version”
3. From the drop-down menu box labeled “Select a State,” choose Kansas.

Or you can go here ( and download a one-page PDF, which contains the same information.

To summarize:

The percentage of fourth-grade students scoring “proficient” increased a lot from 2000 to 2003, and slightly after that. Eighth-grade scores have showed some improvement, too, though not as much.

Reading scores have barely moved (grade 4) and may have slightly declined (grade 8).

About one-third of students are proficient (grade level) in reading.

About half are proficient in fourth grade, but that drops to only a third in the eighth grade.

Certainly nothing too impressive, overall.

So some skepticism is in order, both on the performance and financial front.

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