Archive for Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Student test scores going up in Kansas

October 13, 2009, 3:01 p.m. Updated October 13, 2009, 6:01 p.m.

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Student test scores going up in Kansas

For a ninth straight year, more Kansas students are achieving or exceeding reading and math standards, officials announced Tuesday afternoon. Enlarge video

Quail Run fourth-grade teacher Alea Lafond helps student Kylie Sherby with a math worksheet during class Tuesday at the school. Quail Run received the standard of excellence in all four subject areas of the state assessment tests.

Quail Run fourth-grade teacher Alea Lafond helps student Kylie Sherby with a math worksheet during class Tuesday at the school. Quail Run received the standard of excellence in all four subject areas of the state assessment tests.

— Lawrence public school students went above and beyond when it came to the state standardized assessments.

For the first time, students in every public school in the city hit the state’s Standard of Excellence in at least one subject area. Twenty schools got the award buildingwide in at least one discipline, making last school year Lawrence’s highest-achieving yet.

“We’re just getting much more precise about how we provide instruction to students and what students need to learn, know and be able to do,” chief academic officer Kim Bodensteiner said.

And the district is moving right along with state trends.

For a ninth straight year, more Kansas students are achieving or exceeding reading and math standards, officials announced Tuesday.

“We are very pleased with the achievements,” said Deputy Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker as she unveiled the Kansas State Report Card for 2009.

On the reading test, 85.7 percent of students are meeting or exceeding standards, up from 84.1 percent in 2008 and 59.2 percent in 2000.

On the math test, 82.8 percent met or exceeded standards, compared with 81 percent in 2008 and 50.3 percent in 2000.

In both math and reading, achievement increased at every grade level — the tests are given to students in third through eighth grades and in high school — and every subgroup. The subgroups are students who receive free and reduced-price lunches, students with disabilities, English language learners, African-Americans and Hispanics.

“To see these increases is very encouraging,” DeBacker said.

The math and reading tests are used by the federal government to determine whether schools are making adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind law.

But for a certain grade or building to be awarded the state Standard of Excellence, it takes more than being proficient.

There must be a certain percentage of students scoring at the “exemplary” level, the highest on the scale. Grades and schools also cannot have more than a certain percentage of students in the lowest score category, “academic warning,” which for most groups is 5 percent.

“Standard of Excellence looks at the top level and the lowest level and makes sure you’re having more students at the top and very few students at the bottom,” Bodensteiner said.

The state also gives a science assessment to students in fourth, seventh and 11th grades. On that test, student scores increased slightly in fourth grade and 11th grade and remained the same in seventh grade.

Bodensteiner says that while the traditional focus is on reading and mathematics, the district is happy with science scores.

“We’re pleased with the number of schools that achieved recognition, but we know that’s an area that we’re continuing to work on,” Bodensteiner said. “Both science and writing are areas that we need to continue to improve our curriculum.”

The writing test is given to fifth, eighth and 11th grades. This year was a new version of the writing test and assessments director Terry McEwen said it was much more intensive than in years past.

“The first year of anything, it’s hard to know how to approach the instruction in advance of it,” McEwen said. “Writing is important to us, and we have actually developed our own district level writing assessments as well.”

Even with the improved percentages, the number of school districts that didn’t attain adequate yearly progress under No Child Left Behind increased from 27 in 2008 to 34 in 2009, which represents 11.5 percent of all districts. And the number of individual schools that didn’t make adequate yearly progress increased from 144 to 172, which represents 12.4 percent of Kansas schools. Every school in Lawrence, with the exception of one subgroup at Lawrence High, made AYP this year.

Comments

Zachary Stoltenberg 5 years, 5 months ago

“We’re just getting much more precise about how we provide instruction to students and what students need to learn, know and be able to do,” chief academic officer Kim Bodensteiner said.

Translation- We're getting better at just teaching the test instead of all that other useless crap we used to think kids needed to know. No time for that now, just teach the test!

waswade 5 years, 5 months ago

The graph at the beginning shows Kennedy and Prarie Park as not excelling in any of the 4 areas. Thus the articles author is either wrong or the graph is. Also the reason for the escalation is because the schools are teaching to the test, not teaching what our kids need to know to survive in life. zstoltenberg is correct!

Rex Russell 5 years, 5 months ago

Am I reading this wrong on comparing the graph to the statement ? "For the first time, students in every public school in the city hit the state’s Standard of Excellence in at least one subject area." The graph shows no marks in any of the 4 catagories for Kennedy and Schwegler with only Quail Run meeting all 4. Am I correct ?

Jennifer Nigro 5 years, 5 months ago

Why no markings for Schwegler? Are they hiding something? Could it be because it is the ONLY elementary school in the district that I've found that gives multiple choice spelling tests? Where else are they failing our kids?

ssakcaj 5 years, 5 months ago

Okay, I'll bite.You claim that they are teaching the tests. Would that be the tests in reading, math, science and writing? I don't care how you want to spin it, if they weren't passing the test before and they are now, then there is an improvement.

I say congratulations to Kim Bodensteiner, chief academic officer. My child went to elementary school when she was the principal and I have nothing but good things to say about her, and her emphasis on education and learning.

Sean Livingstone 5 years, 5 months ago

"zstoltenberg: Translation- We're getting better at just teaching the test instead of all that other useless crap we used to think kids needed to know. No time for that now, just teach the test!"

Yeap.... nothing else matters except tests. And of course, a bunch of kids who don't know anything else other than taking tests...

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 5 years, 5 months ago

Through the miracle of standardized testing, the day will come soon when all students are above average.

monkeyspunk 5 years, 5 months ago

Tough call.

There needs to be some stick by which to measure teacher quality. I don't like standardized tests either, but unless a more challenging and less predictable test is created, what other choice do we have?

Perhaps someone can answer this. Are teacher and administrator salaries tied to the standardized test scores?

Steve Jacob 5 years, 5 months ago

It does not look good when your kids school could not even get one checkmark. It sure looks bad on the principles of the schools.

lori 5 years, 5 months ago

Waswade and rex russell--

"Twenty schools got the award buildingwide in at least one discipline" Emphasis on buildingwide.

Each school had students that hit the state's Standards of Excellence in at least one category. The graph is showing the schools in which there were enough students that hit that standard for the school to get a building-wide Excellence rating.

salad 5 years, 5 months ago

“We’re just getting much more precise about how we provide instruction to students and what students need to learn, know and be able to do,” chief academic officer Kim Bodensteiner said.

Translation: "I used to work with kids and make a difference, but now I just work the spin-machine for the district and make fat cash."

Zachary Stoltenberg 5 years, 5 months ago

monkeyspunk - "Perhaps someone can answer this. Are teacher and administrator salaries tied to the standardized test scores? "

Somewhat, at least from what my wife has told me (she's a teacher) and the way I understand NCLB (loosely). I don't think that teacher pay is tied directly to student performance, it's all negotiated by the unions with the district. However, students failing to make AYP can be an excuse for the district to get rid of a teacher. This sounds good in theory, but many times there is nothing wrong with the teachers in that school. Sometimes (oftentimes) it has much more to do with the motivation of the kids. NCLB has created a situation where teachers fear losing their jobs if they get a class of kids who don't care with parents who are just as apathetic. Yes, teacher's teach the test in order to ensure their district continues to receive funding and they have a job, they have to. I'm not saying plenty of educators don't still have nobler motivations and efforts, they do. No one I know would work that hard with that little pay if they didn't love the kids and enjoy what they did, but it's a sad dynamic. I will continue to disregard stories like this. People should care more about their own child and their involvement with their child's teachers and overall learning experience than they should about standardized test results.

grammaddy 5 years, 5 months ago

"fat cash"? I hardly think so. I made more as a fast-food restaurant manager than most of the teachers in this town. How sad is that. Why is it that we can pay athletes $ millions every year but cannot give a decent living wage to the people we trust our childrens' futures to. Reminds me of an old poster from back in my youth.... What if schools had all the money they needed and the Army had to hold a bake sale to buy a new bomber?

Practicality 5 years, 5 months ago

"Perhaps someone can answer this. Are teacher and administrator salaries tied to the standardized test scores?"

Teacher salaries are not, nor do I believe is the Adminstrators. But, if a teacher consistently is in charge of classes that fail year in and year out, that would be a big red flag. Same with Principals of schools.

Federal funding was tied to these tests in someway though under Bush, which is why their was such importance placed upon them by school districts.

Hop2It 5 years, 5 months ago

Okay...lets get rid of all the standardized tests. Schools can do whatever they want. No attempt at public accountability. Happy now?

Lindsey Slater 5 years, 5 months ago

Hi all -- Some of you had questions about the graph vs. the article. To clarify, all Lawrence public schools did achieve at least one Standard of Excellence award in some area. Awards for Schwegler and Kennedy were on the grade-level basis, not the building-wide basis, which is what the graph shows. That's why it's a bit confusing and also why there are no checkmarks on the graph for those two schools. If we would have put every grade level that achieved the Standard of Excellence, the graph would have been monstrous! Hope that helps.

Lindsey Slater K-12 Education Reporter

Practicality 5 years, 5 months ago

Lindsey,

Can you tell us what happens to individual schools who fail to make progress on these tests? As well as what happens to school districts that fail these tests for multiple years? Most importantly, how these test results tie into funding?

Thank You

Lindsey Slater 5 years, 5 months ago

Practicality -- The Standard of Excellence has nothing to do with No Child Left Behind and making progress. The award simply recognizes schools/grades who have a certain percentage of students scoring in the "exemplary" category and less than a certain percentage of students in the "academic warning" category.

The only connection between the Standard of Excellence and "Adequate Yearly Progress" (which is what has to be made according to NCLB) is that they use the same test scores, the state's standardized assessments.

As for as NCLB and AYP (schools love acronyms!), only one subgroup at one school failed to meet the outlined progress this year. Certain penalties do apply to schools failing to meet AYP in consecutive years (like moving students to other schools and closing them), but Lawrence isn't even close to that.

State funding is based upon student enrollment and other factors (at-risk, Title I funds, transportation, etc.) and AYP isn't tied to those monies. More information can be found at www.ed.gov, the US Dept. of Education's website.

Lindsey

Practicality 5 years, 5 months ago

Thanks for the response Lindsey, very informative. Keep up the good work.

Lindsey Slater 5 years, 5 months ago

Consumer1 -- As far as my knowledge, the process for getting children into IEP classes (for children with learning or other disabilities) is pretty stringent. There are evaluations and testing, etc. While schools do get more money for students with disabilities, there's no reason to believe that they plug students there when they don't need to be. It seems to me that the cost of educating students with disabilities is still more than what they receive in funding. While every district in the country wants more money, I can only imagine the penalties of fraud would outweigh the want to stack IEP classrooms!

kugrad 5 years, 5 months ago

So the schools do well and, rather than issue congratulations, every moron in town logs in to claim the schools just taught to the test and cheat and so on. If that is your outlook on life, it must be sad to be you.

Congratulations teachers! Keep it up!

penguin 5 years, 5 months ago

However, the article makes it sound as if everything is a-ok. Subgroup problem or not. The Standard of Excellence is a nice whitewash for the fact that the district failed to meet AYP. http://cjonline.com/news/education/2009-09-09/87_percent_of_schools_met_ayp

It is true that missing it one year is not horrible, but the consequences build after that.

Also as for getting students into special ed...there is a huge incentive to get them in and keep them in. Once the student is identified they will always be in ...regardless of whether or not the schools keep doing any interventions. The only increased cost is if the modifications require a Para in the classroom for the student. Many kids with IEPs do not require it. So can it happen? Yes. There are plenty of schools that do funny things with their numbers. Some high schools used to fudge and count kids who went to the private schools in the same town. It was sort of an open secret for year, but I am still not sure if it has ever stopped.

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