Hispanics in Kansas as unlikely as Hispanics elsewhere to score “Proficient” on NAEP

“Kansas schools don’t need X; they do ready than the rest of the country. Why fix something that isn’t broken?” You’ll hear that sort of sentiment when you bring up the topic of charter schools, changes to tenure policies or other changes in school laws.

But is it true? I’ve already shown, using data from the U.S. Department of Education, that while Kansas does score better on math and reading than the nation as a whole, that better-than-average performance is based on the state’s whiter-than-average population. White students in Kansas do no better on the Nation’s Report Card than white students in the U.S. as a whole. Meanwhile, black students do no better than black students elsewhere.

How about Hispanic students? Here are the numbers. Again, the first number I give for each pair of scores is for the nation, and the second number is for Kansas. The first pair represents the scale score on the NAEP test; the second pair refers to the percentage of students who score at or above the “proficient” level.

Reading

Grade 4:

  • Scale score: 204/210 *
  • At or above proficient: 16/20*

Grade 8:

  • Scale score: 262/267
  • At or above proficient: 30/33*

Mathematics

Grade 4

  • Scale score: 227/233
  • At or above proficient:  21/24*

Grade 8

  • Scale score: 266/274
  • At or above proficient: 17/22*

Analysis

The scale score for Hispanics in Kansas on the mathematics test is higher than the scale score for Hispanics nationally. That’s the good news. The bad news is that if you look at percentage of Hispanic students who score proficient or better , the difference is not statistically significant.

How can that be? Think of the scale score and the proficiency level (at or above proficiency or not) as analogous to the raw scale on a test and the assigned letter grade. A score of 89 on a history test may be higher than a score of 83, but they both earn a “B.” Likewise, the scale score in Kansas is higher than the scale score of the nation, but when you translate that score into how many  of the students earn the “proficiency” mark, Kansas is no different from the rest of the country.

In short, the superior performance of Kansas schools is more wishful thinking than reality.

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