Danedri Thompson
Kansas students scored lower on 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) exams, or on the nation’s report card than in previous years.
The National Center for Education Statistics released 2015 scores on Oct. 28. Administered every two years to a random sample of fourth and eighth graders in each state , the tests measure students’ proficiency in various subject areas.
Kansas fourth graders and eighth graders scored significantly lower in mathematics, and Sunflower State eighth graders scored lower in reading than in 2013. Kansas fourth graders’ reading scores were consistent with 2013 scores.
“We don’t like what we see,” Kansas State Department of Education Commissioner Randy Watson said in a written statement. “We’re going to dig into the NAEP data and find out how we as an agency can offer support to our school districts and the teachers of math and reading.”
Local school officials say they haven’t yet had a chance to really examine the data, but at the state level, government officials say they are concerned.
Gov. Sam Brownback said the scores reflect a need for real education reform.
“This is a complex issue with no single cause or solution,” Brownback said. Though school funding has increased by more than $1 billion over the past decade, NAEP scores have remained largely flat, the Governor said in a written statement.
Kansas fourth grade scores dropped six points lower than 2013 scores – one of the largest drops in the country. In 2015, the average Sunflower State fourth grader scored 241 points – just one point above the national average of 240. The average score is lower than in 2013, but higher than the average Kansas fourth grade math score in 2000. Kansas fourth grade outperformed fourth graders in 19 other states in mathematics.
Kansas eighth graders scored an average of 284 points out of 500. The national average score was 281. Kansas eighth graders scored lower than they did in 2013 and about the same as Kansas eighth graders in 2000. Sunflower State eighth graders outperformed their peers in 18 other states in math.
Brownback is calling for renewed emphasis on improving student performance in math as well as science, technology and engineering, or STEM disciplines. He said the NAEP results underscore the importance of those efforts.
Kansas students fared a little better in reading. Their scores remained flat compared to 2013 scores.
The state’s fourth graders scored an average of 221, which exactly mirrors the national average score.
Kansas fourth graders outperformed their peers in 11 other states in reading.
Kansas eighth graders scored three points higher than the national average in reading.
The average Kansas eighth grader earned a 267, while the national average in 2015 in reading was 264.
Kansas eighth-graders scored higher than 19 other states this year.
The state department of education, under the direction of Watson, a newly-appointed commissioner, recently announced a new vision for Kansas education that seeks to raise academic rigors.
“Right now we don’t know why we decreased, but we take it seriously and we’re going to address it,” Watson said. “…We want to be about the whole child and not just the test results.”
Though Kansas students beat national averages, Brownback said the state can and should do more to ensure students have the skills they need to succeed in life.
“To do that, we must work to get more dollars into the classroom and into the infrastructure our teachers need to improve student performance, particularly in math,” he said. “We need flexibility at the local level to address students’ needs and we should support the great efforts of the thousands of teachers who work every day to help give our students opportunity for a brighter future.”