Lynne Hermansen
Special to The Gardner News
School board members and Pam Stranahan, superintendent, responded to Dave Traebert from the KC Policy Institute at their October meeting.
Traebert spoke during public comments stating the district’s college bound high school students success rates weren’t accurately reflected and were inaccurately inflated.
“High school grad rates are pretty meaningless,” he said.
Traebert said he was speaking on behalf of a lot of people in the district and Level 2 is not a category of test students who are college material according to the Kansas Department of Education.
“The truth is out there,” he said. “The state board hasn’t changed their standards and definitions.”
Traebert said the KC Policy Institute had published an article correcting claims posted to social media by a board member and had asked Superintendent Pam Stranahan for a response they never received.
The school district claimed 61 percent of high school students in the district were on track for college based on Levels 2, 3 and 4 on state assessment tests, he said.
Traebert said the real number is 21 percent.
“Students in Level 2 are not in track for college and career,” he said.
Traebert said the first graphic on the handout he had given board members shows the State Department of Education’s definitions in 2015 only have Levels 3 and 4 for college and career bound students, Level 2 is at grade level and Level 1 is below grade level.
“The department of education uses different explanations now, but to our knowledge no definition changes have been approved since 2015,” he said. “We asked but they declined to respond.”
Traebert said 39 percent of 10th graders were below grade level in math in 2019, 40 percent were at grade level but needing remedial training to be on track for college and only 21 percent were on track.
“This is why high school graduation rates are meaningless and deceptive,” he said. “The district says it has a 95 percent graduation rate but more than a third of them are probably below grade level.”
Rob Shippy, board president, said he wanted to know if Traebert’s Policy Institute was similar to the Kansas Reflector organization.
Traebert said that he is a nonprofit research organization that looks at tax and education issues.
“We are not part of the department of education,” he said. “But the numbers come from the department of education.”
During the Superintendent’s report segment of the meeting Stranahan said she had had Heather  Peeke, director of high school educational services, investigate the KC Policy Institute.
Peeke said the KC Policy Institute’s graphs are developed by them to use data the way they want to use it, and the district will have a bigger presentation on test scores and graduation in January.
“We will talk about ACTs and what has happened over time for college requirements,” she said.
Peeke said they hadn’t seen any of the verbiage used and associated with 2015 and the report Traebert presented.
“We reached out to the state and they said they had moved away from the verbiage used in these charts,” she said. “Assessments have changed over the years.”
Brandon Parks, board member, said he was curious about the relevancy of state tests and what mattered still.
Peeke said it was challenging from a longitudinal stand point because the test had gone from four to two sections over the years and some years were adaptive and some were not.
“There is a lot of different differentiation,” she said. “States bumped up data and there are multiple points of data to assess.”
Peeke said she could talk about state assessments for hours.
Stranahan said in 2016 the Kansas State Board of Education had adopted a new model of a successful college kid.
“They stepped back from one test determining,” she said. “There is more to a student than a single test and KCPI still focuses on one test.”
Kristen Schultz, board member, said she wanted to know how KCPI was intertwined with education.
Shippy said they are a nonprofit third party that also looks at city government.