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Kansas State Board of Education sets cut scores — leaving more questions than answers

Kansas State Board of Education sets cut scores — leaving more questions than answers

By David Dorsey, Kansas Policy Institute

At the regular September meeting, the State Board of Education accepted staff recommendations and approved the new state assessment cut scores with only a single dissenting member. The vote was a culmination of an intensive process that took several months and created not only the cut scores, but a new set of levels based on the new College and Career Ready standards (CCR) — the Kansas version of Common Core.

The following graphics show the statewide scores for both math and ELA (English language arts) for the tested grades based on the new cut scores and the four performance levels. (Note: KCCRA stands for Kansas College and Career Ready Assessment and is derived from Common Core Standards. This is not to be confused with Rose standards — KSDE considers CCR Standards a subset of Rose standards.)

A general description of the four levels are provided in this blog post.

If you look at these and are not sure what they mean, you’re in good company. Upon seeing the same graphs at the board meeting, SBOE chairman Jim McNiece, asked staff: “How did we do?” That inquiry pretty much sums things up: after all the effort, we can’t look at this data and understand what it means, leaving more questions than answers.

Aside from the obvious query from Chairman McNiece, here are several more questions to consider while digesting these resu

  • Do the results show that the Kansas version of Common Core Standards have made any difference in student performance?
  • As a companion question, are the outcomes a function of cut scores, the levels, the standards or a combination?
  • Why did students in elementary score so much higher?
  • Given the much different results for elementary, should they have their own levels?
  • What is the deal with Level 4? If, as explained, these are the students who will score in the upper 1% on ACT, it begs two questions:
    • Why have a separate level if so few are ever expected to make it?
    • Why are so many elementary students in Level 4?
  • Since this is just statewide aggregate data, what will district and subgroup date reveal?
  • How are parents, the schools, and the students themselves going to react to these scores?

Hopefully, as the new state assessment and reporting process unfolds, these and other questions that will arise will be adequately addressed. Until then, this announcement should be considered a bureaucratic first-step in a much longer and extensive journey.