2023 state assessment results reflect Einstein’s definition of insanity

August 7, 2023

The preliminary 2023 state assessment results once again demonstrate that student achievement will remain stubbornly low until the Legislature steps in to give kids a fighting chance.  Despite record-setting funding and extra federal COVID funding that can be used to overcome learning loss, student achievement remains lower than in 2015.

Official results won’t be published until October or November, but the USD 229 Blue Valley discussed preliminary results provided by the Department of Education and the Sentinel obtained the information in an Open Records request.

Proficiency levels for each grade are two to four percentage points better than the 2022 results, but proficiency levels are still well below 50% in all but the third grade, and overall achievement is noticeably lower than in 2015.  In math, a few grades have the same or slightly better proficiency levels but many more students are below grade level.  Each grade tested has a lower proficiency level in English Language Arts and a larger share of students are below grade level.

The high school results are appalling, with 45% of students below grade level in math and just 22% proficient.  English Language Arts results are not much better, with 35% below grade level and only 27% proficient.

The 2023 state assessment results for Blue Valley are equally disturbing.

Every grade tested has a high portion of students below grade level in reading and math, and with one exception – 7th grade math – each proficiency level is lower than in 2015.

One in five Blue Valley high school students are below grade level in math and less than half are proficient.

Student achievement won’t improve until adult behaviors change

In Great on Their Behalf – Why School Boards Fail, How Yours Can Become Effective, author AJ Crabill posits that student achievement won’t improve until adult behaviors change, and the history in Kansas bears that out.

A recent state audit revealed that the “significant problems” found in the 2019 audit still exist and none of their recommendations from the time have been actually addressed.

Legislative Post Audit was scathing in its conclusion.

“This is the second time we have evaluated district at-risk expenditures and KSDE’s role in at-risk programs in the last 4 years,” the report reads. Despite calling out several problems and making recommendations to correct those problems in December 2019, little appears to have changed. The problems with the department’s approved at-risk program list have persisted and are especially concerning.”

The 2019 audit found that most of the at-risk funding examined was not being spent in accordance with state law.  The State Board of Education responded by effectively saying, “Shut up, go away, we know what we’re doing.”  But what they were doing was putting a higher priority on ‘the system’ than on student needs, and that continues today.

The State Board of Education, the Department of Education, and many local education officials and board members repeatedly demonstrate a ‘systems over students’ mentality.  In fact, there are dozens of other examples of education officials deceiving parents and legislators, de-emphasizing academic preparation, and ignoring state laws.

The only question remaining is whether the Legislature will continue playing defense against unwarranted demands for more money and less accountability, or proactively take the lead to get students the education they deserve.  Doing the same things over and over again will not produce any different results.

That starts with telling voters that far too many education officials put the system’s interests ahead of students, and that low achievement won’t improve until the Legislature and parents force adult behaviors to change.  The Legislature also must take actions to compel change, like imposing consequences on district officials for failure to comply with state law and creating more school choice opportunities are at the top of the list.

Anything else will only confirm Einstein’s definition of insanity.