(The Sentinel) – The A+ Team, a slate of four candidates for the Blue Valley school board, posted a social media ad claiming that 86% of USD 229 students are “on track for post-secondary success in Math.” If only that were true.
According to the 2023 state assessment results, just 56% of Blue Valley students are academically prepared for post-secondary success, which the Kansas Department of Education equates with scores in Level 3 and Level 4. KSDE writes, “For Kansas to achieve its vision for education in the area of academic preparation, 75% of all students need to score at or above Levels 3 and 4 on state assessments.”
The A+ Team falsely claims that Level 2 is considered “academically prepared.”
Level 2 is not considered ‘on track for postsecondary success’ as alleged in the ad; that distinction only applies to Levels 3 and 4, with an effective or excellent understanding of math and ELA skills. KSDE says Level 2 indicates just a basic ability to understand and use mathematics skills.
Further, the State Board of Education says a successful graduate (again, only Levels 3 and 4) does not need remediation. Therefore, students scoring in Level 1 and Level 2 need some degree of remediation.
Like beauty, excellence is in the eye of the beholder
If the people behind the A+ Team think it is a success to have 13% of students below grade level in math and 56% proficient (as described by KSDE to the U.S. Department of Education), well, that is their prerogative.[i] Every parent is entitled to form their own opinion of what constitutes success, and they need accurate information to do so.
Historical context is also important. Blue Valley experienced a gradual decline between 2015 and 2019, so those declines cannot be blamed on the pandemic. And now, overall results are still below pre-pandemic levels.
Roughly twice as many students are below grade level than in 2015; proficiency dropped from 59% to 56% in math and from 69% to 57% in English Language Arts.
ACT scores are also trending down in Blue Valley. The district average fell from 25.4 in 2015 to 25.0 in 2019; the most recent score published for 2022 was 23.6.
All across Kansas, parents should be asking school board candidates if they believe achievement levels are acceptable and, if not, how they propose to improve outcomes. More of the same won’t change much, and neither will ignoring a downward trend.
[i] KSDE’s original definition of Level 1 is “below grade level” with limited ability to understand material. “Below grade level” was later deleted, although the cut scores remain the same. A more complete explanation is here.