At a meeting of the Kansas State Board of Education, it became clear that there are certain topics and questions that aren’t to be discussed in public.
At September’s meeting (video here), BOE chair David Dennis interrupted questioning by board member Walt Chappell and proceeded to the next member’s questions. Chappell was asking whether “cut scores” had declined and whether definitions of “meets standard” and “proficiency” had changed. Dennis would not allow these questions to be answered.
It’s clear that Dennis — and the entire Kansas public school bureaucracy — doesn’t want to talk about these questions. Here’s why.
Until this year, scores on Kansas-administered and controlled assessments have been rising — “jumping,” in the recent words of Kansas Education Commissioner Diane DeBacker. But scores on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for Kansas students don’t reflect the same trend. Scores on this test, which is given every two years, haven’t been rising as they have on the Kansas-controlled test scores. Sometimes they decline.
We now know why the Kansas-controlled test scores have risen: The Kansas State Department of Education has lowered standards. Kansas Policy Institute has done the research.
In Removing Barriers to Better Public Education, updated in June with new data, KPI concludes: “In 2000 and 2001 a student needed at least 87% correct answers in Reading to be Proficient (the second-highest performance level), but from 2002 through 2005 they only needed 80% correct answers to be Proficient (the third highest level) on the same test; Proficiency in Math required only 48% correct answers, down from 60%.”
It’s not only KPI that has noticed that Kansas schools have low standards. Data from U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reveals that Kansas has low standards for its schools, compared to other states.
These are the types of things the Kansas school public school establishment doesn’t want Kansans to know. Board of Education chair David Dennis uses his authority to silence those who might mention these facts.
While Dennis squelches those who ask inconvenient questions about Kansas public schools, he floated a proposal to increase regulation of homeschooling in Kansas. It’s simply incredible that someone presiding over a failing system — and proud to be part of that system — would want to extend his influence and control over people who have taken great effort to escape the public schools.