April 16, 2014

State assessment scores drop statewide

Danedri Thompson
dthompson@gardnernews.com
Kansas test scores in reading and math are down in 2013 compared to 2014.
Scores are down across the state with the percentage of students scoring at or above standard in Kansas dropping from 87 percent to 84.7 percent in reading; and from 85 percent to 78.3 percent in math.
Local school districts were not immune, though Spring Hill and Gardner Edgerton district students continue to score higher than their peers across the state.
In Gardner-Edgerton, the number of students scoring at or above the standard in reading dropped from 96.2 to 95.8 percent. In math, GE students dropped from 97.2 percent to 96.4. In science, USD 231 increased one-tenth of a percent from 97.1 to 97.2 percent.
In Spring Hill, the number of students scoring at or above standard in reading fell from 92.5 percent to 89.2 percent. In math, the drop-off was dramatic. Students scoring at or above standard dropped from 92.6 percent to 82.5 percent. In science, Spring Hill scores also fell from 94.8 percent at or above standard to 88.9 percent.
“Obviously, we weren’t happy to see the scores, but it wasn’t unexpected,” Denise Kahler, director of communications at the Kansas Department of Education, said.
The scores are based on tests the students took last spring. In Spring Hill, Christine Splichal, communications director, said the tests contained a mix of old testing standards and new, Common Core questions. That may have thrown students for a loop.
Kahler said state officials are just now parsing the numbers, released earlier this month.
“I don’t know that we have a firm explanation,” Kahler said.
The state adopted Kansas Career and College Ready Standards in 2010, and since then, schools have been teaching to those standards. She said as schools are slowly moving to new standards, there may be some alignment issues between what is being taught and what is on the tests.
“The schools were doing what they were doing what they were asked to do,” Kahler said. “The fact that they were doing that and that the assessment wasn’t aligned, it’s not surprising that the scores would fall.”
It takes time to develop new assessment tests, she explained.
“(Last spring’s) assessment was aligned to the previous standards,” Kahler explained. “In three years time, you’re getting further and further away. You’re teaching to the new standards but still testing to the old standards.”
Students will take a transition assessment in the spring of 2014, Kahler said, but she wouldn’t make any assumptions as to how the students will fare. It would be impossible to compare the scores from the old tests to the new ones.
“Now you’re comparing apples to oranges,” she said. “This will be a completely different test to a completely different standard.”
The tests last year used a lot of multiple choice. The new tests will have technology-enhanced questions, Kahler said.
“A child might have to demonstrate how they came to an answer,” she explained. “You’re actually going to be asked to solve the problem, to actually show how you came up with that answer,” she said. “It’s more than a multiple choice test.”

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