Topeka — A federal report released Thursday places Kansas academic standards near the middle of the pack when compared to a benchmark national test.
Thursday’s report by the National Center for Education Statistics, a division of the U.S. Department of Education, looked at test results from 2005 and 2007 from 47 states.
The report compared state achievement levels to achievement levels on the National Assessment of Education Progress, also considered a national report card of progress.
States were ranked as either proficient, basic or below basic when the standards were analyzed to determine their relative score on the 500-point NAEP test scale.
It found that Kansas was one of 24 states that placed below basic when comparing state fourth-grade math and reading standards to the NAEP test. At the eighth grade, Kansas was one of 29 states placing at the basic level in both math and reading.
Beth Fultz, Kansas Department of Education coordinator for the NAEP program, said the report suggests that Kansas students are doing well on both the state tests and the NAEP test.
“There isn’t any reason to think that we need to change our standards at this point,” Fultz said.
Overall, the report’s authors suggest that states are setting the bar for their academic standards low, partly in response to the national goal of having all students proficient in math and reading by 2014. The report looked at NAEP scores for the fourth and eighth grade.
It found that many states deemed children to be proficient or on grade level when they would rate below basic or lacking even partial mastery of reading and math under the NAEP standards.
Mark Tallman, a spokesman for the Kansas Association of School Boards said the report is indicative of how high Kansas has set the bar for student achievement.
Kansas students historically have scored well on the NAEP exams, he said, which would indicate that state standards are aligned to what the federal agency deems important for students to know. However, setting high standards doesn’t mean high achievement without adequate resources, namely time and money.
Tallman and Fultz both said that changing demographics among Kansas students, with more living in poverty and more English-language learners, makes it challenging for districts to meet increasing state standards.
Kansas doles out about $3 billion to its 293 school districts, but faces more cuts in spending as state revenues continue to decline. Gov. Mark Parkinson is expected to make spending cuts next month to balance the 2010 state budget, but it is unclear how much schools would be reduced.
“If we’re going to get there, you have to provide resources and support,” Tallman said. “If the students are coming to school with a deficiency, the question is what are going to do to overcome that?
“I would concede that money isn’t the only thing that matters. If you spend the money and have the same test results, that’s not good either.”