A Report Card for Kansas and the USA

How is Kansas doing on education? There’s good news and bad news, according to the Report Card on American Education, published by the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The report measures states against this question: How well do children (without a special-education plan) who are from poor families doing on the NAEP, or the “Nation’s Report Card?”

Here’s the good news: (Numbers in parenthesis refer to pages in the report)

  • Kansas ranks 7 overall on the performance of low-income, non-special-ed students. (40, 112)
  • Kansas is ranks 4 for 4th grade math, 7  for 8th grade math, and 8 for 4th-grade reading. (113)
  • Kansas ranks 11 on improvements to 4th-grade reading. (114)
  • Kansas ranks 7 in a measure that combines NAEP overall scores and gains for 8th grade reading and math. (117)
  • Kansas gets a “B” for its regulation on homeschooling, which makes homeschooling freely available to families. (40)

And here’s the not-so-good news:

  • Only one-third of grade-four students (36 percent, specifically) are “proficient” in reading. (40)
  • Kansas gets a D+ on education reform, putting it in the same category as 9 other states. (112)
  • Kansas ranks 16 for 8th-grade reading. (113)
  • Kansas ranks 26 for improvement in 4th-grade math scores. (114)
  • Kansas ranks 26 in a measure that combines NAEP overall scores and gains for 4th grade reading and math. (117)
  • Kansas ranks 28 for improvement in 8th-grade math scores and 32 for improvement in 8th-grade reading scores. (115)
  • Kansas got a C- on its academic standards (compared with the NAEP); its proficiency standards have been lowered, not raised. (40)
  • Kansas has no private school choice plans that might give students more options, and its charter school law gets an “F” for retarding the development of charter schools. (40, 119)
  • Kansas does not have mandatory intra and inter-district enrollment (as do 10 other states), again, limiting student options. (40)
  • Kansas gets poor grades for its policies governing teachers: A C- for retaining effective teachers, a D- for identifying high-quality teachers, and a D_ for removing ineffective ones. In addition it does not have alternative routes for certifying teachers, as do 21 states.  (120)

I will add in two other facts not included in the report card:

  • One-fourth (28 percent) of grade-four students are illiterate (scoring “below basic”) on the NAEP. (State profile page, US Department of Education).
  • If you calculate drop-outs by determining how many students who enter ninth grade graduate with a regular diploma four years later, the Kansas dropout late was 26 percent, as calculated by the America’s Promise Alliance. (See a report I wrote about drop-outs in Kansas, drawing on the alliance’s work.)

So Kansas does fairly well by some measures, but not by others. It scores high compared with other states, but not necessarily against countries around the world. The large number of drop-outs and illiterate children is itself a scandal. Finally, the policy environment restricts student options.

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