Topeka As students across the state wrap up taking statewide tests, Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker says she fears more schools will fail to make Adequate Yearly Progress under the federal No Child Left Behind act.
“We are leveling off,” DeBacker said in a presentation to the Kansas Board of Regents last week. “That’s one of the challenges.”
Kansas students’ achievement has increased each year since 2004. Last year, 86.3 percent met or exceeded standards in reading and 83.6 percent in math. And Kansas students continue to outperform the national average in ACT, SAT and National Assessment of Educational Progress scores.
These improvements have occurred at a time when the number of children receiving free or reduced-price lunch, in special education, or who come to school speaking another language has increased dramatically.
But getting those remaining students up to standards as required under NCLB is problematic, DeBacker said.
Reaching 100 percent compliance is impossible, she said, especially in light of $300 million in cuts in state funding to public schools over the past couple of years.
DeBacker said the law is unfair because some schools that have made significant gains will be labeled as failing.
“Schools are going to fail even if they work hard,” she said.
In February, the Kansas Department of Education requested that the U.S. Department of Education hold the annual targets for student performance on reading and math assessments to the 2009-10 levels.
Part of the reason for this is that Kansas has adopted what are called Common Core Standards for student performance and has in place a database that will better gauge individual students’ improvements, education officials said.
“In light of Kansas’ demonstrated commitment to continuing reform, and the state’s intent to maintain challenging performance targets, I think the request for some flexibility while we work to implement the new standards and assessments is appropriate,” said State Board of Education Chairman David Dennis.
DeBacker said the agency has not received any word back yet from the federal education department.