Archive for Wednesday, January 3, 2001

State report cards grade schools

Reading, writing scores increase but concerns remain in math

January 3, 2001

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— New report cards for public and private schools show strength in reading and writing skills but also the need for work on math, education officials said Tuesday.

State educators announced the release of the latest report cards for individual schools. They were to be issued Tuesday and available on the Department of Education's Web site, but an error in the data caused a delay, said Kathy Toelkes, department spokeswoman.

"A quality school is more than those things that show up on test scores. It is important to get more information. It's really hard to measure student attitude, student involvement or love of learning with test score."

Peg Dunlap, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Assn.

The reports should be available today, Toelkes said. The department didn't release any specific numbers Tuesday.

The state department already had data in a larger report, including specifics on when assessment visits were made to schools. Staff members were able to review the data and draw conclusions based on the statewide report.

Overall, state officials were pleased with the reports, which generally showed students in kindergarten through grade 12 doing well in state tests for reading and writing.

"Math scores were not as high as we might like them to be," said Sharon Freden, assistant education commissioner for learning services. She said the lower math scores could be related to a more rigorous test the state used.

Another positive note was the increase in the number of students taking advanced courses in science and math, she said, such as chemistry, physics or calculus.

While the report cards show how well schools make the grade, education officials cautioned against using the reports as an accurate comparison between schools or school districts.

Steve Adams, team leader for school improvement and accreditation, said other factors needed to be considered, such as standards for discipline or graduation.

The report cards are designed to give a snapshot of each school and how it compares to state averages in test scores, dropout rates, acts of school violence and graduation rates. All figures were reported to the state already and do not come to the districts as a surprise.

"A better measurement is how well the district is moving closer to the state standards," Adams said.

The report cards, though public documents, may never reach parents, Adams said. The reports are sent to individual school boards for review and dissemination as they see fit.

The report cards, while useful documents, are just one piece of information to gauge student success, said Peg Dunlap, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Assn., the state's largest teachers union.

"A quality school is more than those things that show up on test scores," Dunlap said. "It is important to get more information. It's really hard to measure student attitude, student involvement or love of learning with test score."

Dunlap said the KNEA did not issue a formal statement about the report cards, but added that the teachers' group was concerned that any report on schools be as accurate and descriptive as possible.

Schools are credited on the report for meeting the state standard of excellence for achieving levels of success in reading, writing and math. The standard is based on performance of the general student body tested, including students with disabilities.

Freden said a report card on students with disabilities helped meet federal requirements to test and show progress for all students.

"It helps us for accountability," Freden said.

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