GUEST COLUMN, Dave Trabert, Kansas Policy Institute
It’s hard for some people to fathom that education officials go out of their way to cover up low achievement results, but it is almost a daily occurrence for the Kansas Association of School Boards (KASB).
The most recent example is a six-city pep rally to celebrate graduation rates. A diploma once meant that a student is academically prepared to go on to a career, technical training, or college. Now, diplomas are more like attendance certificates to a lot of students.
The 2022 state assessment shows 46 percent of high school students are below grade level in math and 39 percent are below grade level in English Language Arts, yet the graduation rate exceeded 89 percent.
The six districts on the KASB success tour generally have one-third to three-quarters of students below grade level yet they have graduation rates above 90 percent. The two with the worst outcomes have 100 percent graduation rates.
Education officials aren’t doing anyone any favors by giving diplomas to students who cannot read and do math at grade level. Instead of requiring measurable gains in achievement, the Kansas Board of Education uses what it calls post-secondary success as a proxy for achievement, tracking students who at least attend college, technical training, or enlist in the military.
Their job, however, is to get students prepared for college and career. So instead of doing their job, state officials monkey with terminology and try to deflect attention from poor outcomes to make the system and the adults in it look good.
The Legislature now has a choice to make: compel compliance with consequences that get education officials’ attention, or accept that upwards of one-third of students will not be able to read or do math grade level.