(TNS) -- Parents whose children took Kansas state assessments last spring should receive reports over the next few weeks detailing their performance on the newly designed, Common Core-aligned tests.
The student reports, distributed by school districts, will show your child’s score on each test, as well as how that score compares to median scores for your school, district and the state as a whole.
State and local education officials have warned that the scores could look bad. State-level results released last month showed that a majority of Kansas students were not on track to be ready for college-level work, although most performed at grade level on the more rigorous tests.
“The standards were increased. The assessment is more difficult,” said Beth Fultz, assistant director for assessments and accountability for the Kansas Department of Education.
“This is really our first data point” with the new tests, she said. “It’s very much a baseline, so there isn’t any comparison to last year or previous years.”
Here’s what you will see on the report:
An odometer-like gauge on the front will show your child’s score and where it falls on four performance levels, with Level 4 being the highest. Additional graphs show how the student’s score compares to other scores for that grade level and subject in the child’s school, district and state.
Level 1 indicates performance below grade level, officials said. Level 2 is on grade level, meeting new, tougher standards but not on track to be ready for college-level work. Levels 3 and 4 are above grade level and on track to be college- or career-ready.
During a presentation to Wichita school board members earlier this month, officials said last year’s math standards were more rigorous than those measured by the ACT or the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a test that often is used to compare student achievement state-to-state.
“The bar has been raised significantly in the state of Kansas for what we want students to achieve and be able to do,” said Wichita Superintendent John Allison.
“We are setting a very high bar for our students,” he said. “As things become more refined, as our teachers have the opportunity to work and realign our curriculum, as data becomes more available, we will see our students grow and we’ll see those scores change.”
This crop of student test reports, though, could show a lot of Level 1s and 2s. That could prompt some parents to panic, thinking their child failed the test or isn’t doing well in school.
School board member Sheril Logan worries that even the colors on the student report – Levels 1 and 2 are shaded red, like a warning siren – could unnecessarily alarm parents.
“I’m looking at that graph and I’m saying to myself, ‘My kid is in the red, so he’s not doing OK,’ and yet that’s not what we’re saying, correct?” Logan said.
“We’ll have to do a good job of explaining that a 2 is very acceptable,” answered Lisa Lutz, the district’s testing coordinator.
Districts received student reports from the state early last week. Wichita officials said they were sifting through the data and weren’t sure when or how those reports would be distributed to parents. In the past, parents have received assessment scores from their children’s teachers, often during parent-teacher conferences.
School board member Joy Eakins said she’s concerned that results from tests taken last spring have taken so long to get to districts, schools and families.
The delay, state officials said, is because this past summer, about 160 language arts and math teachers worked with the University of Kansas Center for Educational Testing and Evaluation – which developed the test – to define the range of test scores that qualify for each of four performance levels.
“If we needed to make a change in our system, at this point of the year it would be very difficult to do that, to catch a student up or catch a group of students up,” Eakins said. “As a system, we can’t look and say, ‘Where are we?’ ”
Fultz, the state official, said scores should be distributed more quickly next year. Ideally, schools should get test scores before the end of the school year, she said.
This year’s test scores are the first from new, technology-enhanced assessments that began two years ago. Because the 2013-14 tests were plagued with technical glitches, state education officials got federal approval not to release test results that year.
This year’s student reports should go out to parents over the next several weeks. In December, the Kansas Department of Education will publish district- and building-level data on its website.
“I do worry that there will be those that will try to draw conclusions here, make comparisons and in some way indicate that schools are not successful,” said Allison, the Wichita superintendent. “And that’s not the case.
“Our students do well across the state. They do well in Wichita – not to say that we don’t have a great deal of work to do,” he said. “We want all our students to be at Level 4, but they’re not going to start there. So we know we’ve got our work cut out for us.”
©2015 The Wichita Eagle (Wichita, Kan.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.