Topeka Still reeling from the first decrease in more than a decade in statewide student test scores, education officials acknowledged Wednesday that the results were even worse for minority students and those from low-income families.
Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker said she would form a task force to address the sizable drop in test scores among certain groups of students.
“We need to be looking at that at a state level,” DeBacker said.
DeBacker said she would seek assistance from the Kansas African American Affairs Commission, Kansas Hispanic and Latino Affairs Commission, the Midwest Equity Assistance Center at Kansas State University, as well as “asking some districts to give us some of their best thinkers in this area.”
Student math, reading, science and history test scores in Kansas fell for the first time since the federal No Child Left Behind law was adopted, according to the 2012 Kansas Report Card.
And that has raised questions about the impact of state budget cuts to a school finance system that is under court challenge.
A group of school districts allege that the state has failed its constitutional duty to adequately fund schools, and they say proof of that can be found in test scores that show large numbers of students, especially minorities, score low on state tests.
The newest test results show that performance declines were most significant among blacks, Hispanics, English-language learners, students with disabilities and students who qualify for free or reduced-price lunch.
The gap between those groups and white students had been narrowing for the past 12 years, but this year the gap increased.
In 2011, 87.6 percent of all students reached the top three achievement levels in reading. This year, that stands at 85.7 percent, a decrease of 1.9 percentage points. The level for blacks was 73.9 percent last year, and 65.7 percent this year, a drop of 8.2 percentage points.
The gap between white students and black students increased with white students scoring 17.7 percentage points higher last year and 25.2 percentage points higher this year.
In science, 65.6 percent of blacks met standards, while this year it was 51.7, a decrease of 13.9 percentage points.
“I think the results bolster the case against the state,” said John Robb, an attorney for the plaintiff school districts. “You cannot remove $511 million of resources and expect this not to happen. I predict that it will be much worse in the out years that are coming.”
Base state aid was $4,400 per student in the 2008-09 school year and fell to $3,780 per student after several rounds of budget cuts during the recession. The current school year level is $3,838 per student.