Another batch of test results will come out this week, this one measuring how well Kansas students performed last year on the state's own benchmarks for reading, math and other subjects.
Unlike the National Assessment of Educational Progress, results of which were released Thursday, the state tests are given each year to every student in grades 3 through 8, and once in high school. They are used mainly to measure the state's compliance with federal education laws and regulations, as well as the state's own standards for accrediting school districts.
Since about 2002, the scores have been used to determine whether individual schools, districts and the state as a whole have met the "Adequate Yearly Progress," or AYP targets under No Child Left Behind.
That law set out ever-increasing targets for the percentage of students scoring proficient or better. Schools that failed to meet those targets received sanctions, up to and including requirements that they be closed or that their entire staffs be replaced.
But in 2011, Kansas received a waiver from those rules after it agreed to adopt a new system of holding schools accountable for improving student achievement and closing achievement gaps between subgroups of students.
Under the new system, scores are used to develop a unique set of "Annual Measurable Objectives," or AMO's, for each building, setting goals for reducing the number of students scoring below proficient, increasing the number of students scoring in the upper performance categories, and closing achievement gaps.
The scores coming out will also be the last ones using tests based on earlier sets of academic standards. Beginning in 2014, Kansas students will begin taking tests aligned to the new Common Core standards for reading and math.
Last year, results of the state tests showed that after several years of progress, the achievement gaps between racial and economic groups began to widen again. That trend was confirmed Thursday in Kansas' NAEP scores.
In response to last year's state results, Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker appointed a task force to analyze those scores and develop recommendations for addressing the problem.
That group has met only twice so far, DeBacker said Friday. She said the scores being released Tuesday will help determine if the trend is continuing. They will also be used to determine if the gaps are isolated in certain areas of the state, and whether other schools are having success in closing those gaps.
This month's State Board of Education meeting will be the first in the agency's new offices in the Landon State Office Building, just east of the State Capitol. The agency relocated there from its old office a few blocks away where it had been housed since 1966.
Also this month, the state board will receive proposed new standards for handwriting and English language proficiency, formerly known as "English for Speakers of Other Languages.
The board will receive a recommendation this month about what kind of assessments Kansas will use in 2015 and beyond.
One option will be to use tests being developed by the Smarter Balanced Assessment Consortium, a group of states including Kansas that is developing tests aligned to the Common Core. Other options include continuing to contract with the Kansas University Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation, or contracting with another test provider such as ACT.