Wichita test scores largely mirror Kansas

Officials at USD 259, the Wichita school district, and school bond issue supporters are quick to point out that the Wichita schools have an 11-year record of rising test scores. That’s a good thing, as long as the tests are reliable and valid measures of student learning and achievement.

But whether this record is evidence of extraordinary accomplishment at USD 259 is another question. I’ve gathered some data that will help us compare the test scores of the Wichita school district to the scores of all Kansas schools.

The results, which may be viewed in graphical form here, show that the trend in Wichita test scores follows the trend of our state as a whole, at least for the years 2003 through 2008. (Note: Data for 2003 through 2005 is presented separately from data for 2006 through 2008 due to a change in the tests used.)

So it looks like Wichita is keeping pace with the rest of the state. That’s good, but hardly evidence of extraordinary accomplishment.

What about the 11 years of rising test scores? A document from USD 259 titled “Introduction to Long-term Achievement Trends” and made available in September makes this disclaimer:

The following line graphs show the performance for the major summative assessment(s) in use during the specified years. The school district has utilized a variety of assessments to measure student achievement over the past eleven years. Although one may determine improvement from these assessments, they are not directly comparable because 1) they measure different knowledge and skills in different ways across various groups of students and 2) different tests employ scoring and performance level determination are markedly different. This makes summary statistics derived from the aggregation of data across a group of discrete tests erroneous and not interpretable for measuring student performance. (emphasis added)

Sources of data: Kansas data from Kansas State Department of Education Report Card 2007-2008, at http://online.ksde.org/rcard/index.aspx, accessed 10/23/2008. Wichita data from “Wichita Public Schools Achievement Trends” dated 9/15/2008.


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