Tag Archives: Achievement

Kansas on the Nation’s Report Card Summarized

How do Kansas schools stack up against schools across the country? In order to answer that question, we need to use a measurement that is applied across the country.

Kansas scores compared with score for the USA

The following table suggests that Kansas schools are doing better than those in the rest of the country. It shows the percentage of students who score “at or above proficient” on four key tests on the “Nation’s Report Card.” Numbers in parentheses–(4) or (8)–indicated the grade level at which the test was given.

Reading (4) Reading (8) Math (4) Math (8)
USA 32 30 38 33
Kansas 35 33* 46 40

In three of the four tests, Kansas outperformed the nation.The asterisk (*) in the fourth means that the difference between the USA and Kansas is not statistically different. That is, it could have happened by chance. (Think of it as the “margin of error” that you hear of in public opinion surveys and you’ve got roughly the same idea.)

While having less than half of the students at proficient isn’t great, at least Kansas is above the national average. Or is it?

Breaking it down further

Let’s look closer. The following table offers a summary of the state’s performance by demographic group.

Group of students Do Kansas students test better than those in the country as a whole?
All students Yes–In grade 4 reading, grade 4 math, and grade 8 math
White students No
Black students No
Hispanic students Yes, in grade 4 math
American Indian students No difference for grade 8 reading; data not available for grade 4 reading or math
Asian/Pacific Islander students No difference for reading or grade 4 math; data not available for grade 8 math
English language learners No
Students with disabilities No
Low-income students Yes-In grade 4 reading, grade 4 math, and grade 8 math

You can find this information by consulting  National Center for Education Statistics, using NAEP Reading scores and NAEP mathematic scores. Look at whether the percentage of students within each group in Kansas who scored “at or above proficient” is “significantly different from” the percentage for the same group of students in the nation as a whole.

What explains higher state scores?

So where do the “above average” scores in the first table come from? It’s pretty simple. It provides group-specific percentages of students who score at or above proficient.

Race or ethnicity Reading (4) Reading (8) Math (4) Math (8)
White students 42 41 51 44
Black students 16 14 16 12
Hispanic students 17 17 22 17
Asian/Pacific students 49 45 60 54
American Indian students 20 21 21 18

The U.S. Census Bureau reports that in 2008, 80.3 percent of the Kansas population was “White persons not Hispanic,” while the comparable number for the USA was 65.5 percent. In other words, Kansas is 23 percent whiter than the USA (80.3/65.5). Given that white students score higher on the NAEP than students of other racial or ethnic groups, their preponderant numbers in Kansas guarantee that Kansas will outscore the country on the “Nation’s Report Card.”

We can argue all day long about the quality of Kansas schools, but the state’s performance on a nationally recognized test that is administered to a sample of schools in each state does not prove that Kansas schools are better than those anywhere else.

Low-income Kansas students outscore national average–perhaps

How do Kansas schools do in educating students from l0w-income families?

Reading

Grade 4

  • Scale score: 206/213
  • At or above proficient:  17/22

Grade 8

  • Scale score: 249/255
  • At or above proficient: 16/19*

Mathematics

Grade 4

  • Scale score: 228/236
  • At or above proficient: 22/32

Grade 8

  • Scale score: 266/276
  • At or above proficient: 17/24

* Denotes “not significantly different.”

Analysis

When it comes to students from low-income families, Kansas scores higher on the proficiency scale on four out of the four tests. When we look at the percentage of students who score “at or above proficiency,” Kansas scores higher in three out of the four tests.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that the proficiency levels are hardly spectacular: In the best test, 32 percent of fourth-grade students from low-income families score “at or above proficient” in mathematics. That means two-thirds of them score below grade level.

And that’s for the best subject.

Consider also the data from other groups: Whites, blacks, hispanics, English-language learners, and students with disabilities, in which Kansas has a so-so record. I think it’s fair to say that its “good” performance among students from low-income families is, like its performance overall, an artifact of its whiter-than-average population.

What’s special about Kansas? When it comes to the performance of its public schools, very little.

Disabled students fare no better in Kansas than in the U.S. as a whole

How have Kansas schools performed when it comes to students with disabilities? Here are numbers from the National Assessment of Educational Progress, often called the Nation’s Report Card.  As with the other posts in this series, national numbers are given first, followed by numbers for Kansas, in this format: National/Kansas. An * after the score signifies that there is no significant difference between the state and national numbers.

Reading

Grade four

  • Scale score: 189/189 *
  • Percent at proficient or above: 12/10*

Grade eight

  • Scale score: 229/236
  • Percent at proficient or above: 8/6*

Mathematics

Grade four

  • Scale score: 220/227
  • Percent at proficient or above: 19/23 *

Grade eight

  • Scale score: 249/254*
  • Percent at proficient or above : 9/9*

Analysis

In two of the four tests examined here (reading and math at grades four and eight), Kansas students with disabilities achieved a higher scale score than their compatriots across the country. Yet when Kansas is compared with the rest of the country on terms of the percentage of students who fall into the achievement levels known as “proficient or above” (think of it as a letter grade, compared with the numeric grade of the scale score), there’s no statistically significant difference. The allegedly superior performance of Kansas schools disappears.

* = no significant difference

Under NAEP guidelines, “A student with a disability may need specially designed instruction to meet his or her learning goals. A student with a disability will usually have anIndividualized Education Plan (IEP), which guides his or her special education instruction. Students with disabilities are often referred to as special education students and may be classified by their school as learning disabled (LD) or emotionally disturbed (ED). The goal of NAEP is that students who are capable of participating meaningfully in the assessment are assessed, but some students with disabilities selected by NAEP may not be able to participate, even with the accommodations provided.”

English-language learners in Kansas: One out of Four Isn’t Bad

How do Kansas schools do in educating “English Language Learners?”

Reading

Grade 4:

  • Scale score: 188/203
  • At or above proficient:  6/17 *

Grade 8:

  • Scale score: 219 / 235
  • At or above proficient: 3/5*

Mathematics

Grade 4

  • Scale score: 218/231
  • At or above proficient:  12/21

Grade 8

  • Scale score: 243/260
  • At or above proficient: 5/10*

* Denotes “not significantly different.”

Analysis

We have found one demographic group in which Kansas schools outperform those of the country at large. English-language learners are much more likely to score “at or above proficient” in the mathematics test of NAEP. But that’s only for the fourth grade, and even then, four out of five students in this group are not at grade level. For the other three tests–reading for grades 4 and 8, and math for grade 8, the percentage of Kansas students scoring “at or above proficient” doesn’t differ significantly (beyond the margin of error, if you will) from that of the country as a whole.

Fewer than 1 in 5 black Kansas students are proficient

Yesterday I looked at the performance of white students in Kansas on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).

How have racial minorities in Kansas fared? The U.S. Department of Education has a page that lets us compare scores across states. In this post, we’ll discuss black students.

Reading

Scores reported as national/Kansas

Grade four

  • Scale score: 204/210 *
  • Percentage of student scoring “at or above proficient”: 15/20 *

Grade eight

  • Scale score: 245/248 *
  • Percentage of student scoring “at or above proficient”: 13/14*

Mathematics

Grade four

  • Scale score: 222/224 *
  • Percentage of student scoring “at or above proficient”: 15/18*

Grade eight

  • Scale score: 260/264 *
  • Percentage of student scoring “at or above proficient”: 12/15*

Conclusion

In every one of these four key tests, black Kansas students had nominally better scores than black students nationally. But in each case, the differences were not statistically different. That is, we can’t be sure that the reported difference was due entirely to sampling error. Once again, we see that “Kansas schools do better than those in the rest of the country” just doesn’t match the reality on the ground. The differences on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) are due to the state’s demographic profile rather than the superior performance of its schools.

Consider also that fewer than one in five black students in Kansas is proficient in either math or reading.

The Above-Excellence myth: White Kansan students are just average

“Why do we need to change anything in Kansas schools? They’re among the best in the country.”

But is that really true.

The state does score above the national average on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). Here’s a snapshot.

  • Grade 4 math. For Kansas, the score (245) is higher than the national scale score (239); the percentage of students scoring at “proficient or above” (46) is better than the national percentage (38). Chalk one up for Kansas.
  • Grade 8 math: Kansas’s scale score (289) beats the national score (282); the percentage of students scoring “at or above proficient” is higher, too–40 to 33.
  • Grade 4 reading: The Kansas scale score (224) beats the national score (220). Also, a higher percentage of students are proficient in Kansas (72 v. 66).
  • Grade 8 reading: The Kansas scale score (267) beats the national score (262). The percentage of students at or above proficient (33), however, is not statistically different from the national sample.

Still, Kansas outperforms the nation on three of the four tests. Is that great news? Well, maybe. But consider that Kansas has a whiter-than-average population. Could that fact have an effect on the state’s scores?

Let’s look at test scores for only white students.

Mathematics

4th grade

  • Scale score (national/Kansas) 248/251
  • Percentage of students at proficient or above (national/Kansas): 51/55% *
  • * Not a statistically significant difference

8th grade

  • Scale score: 292/294 *
  • Percentage of students at proficient or above: 82/85 *
  • * Not a statistically significant difference

So on mathematics, white students in Kansas don’t score noticeably different from white students nationwide. How about reading?

Reading

4th grade

  • Scale score (national/Kansas): 229/229 *
  • Percentage of students at proficient or above: 41/40*
  • * Not a statistically significant difference

8th grade

  • Scale score (national/Kansas): 271/272 *
  • Percentage of students at proficient or above (39/39)*
  • * Not a statistically significant difference

Conclusion: On neither mathematics nor reading do white students score significantly different from white students in the nation as a whole, suggesting that the performance of Kansas schools is nothing extraordinary. In fact, it is … average.

But what about racial minorities and other groups of students? More on that later.

Assessments Through the Years

How have Kansas schools done lately? One way of answering that question is to look at the state’s  performance on the NAEP, or National Assessment of Educational Progress. You can download a one-page summary (PDF) of Kansas performance on the NAEP since 1998.