• Kansas’ system is built on high-quality academic standards and the plan provides evidence that the state’s assessments are aligned with college and career readiness.


  • The state sets forth ambitious goals that are the same for every subgroup.




  • Overall, Kansas’ plan does not provide sufficient information and evidence on how the plan will improve education in the state.


  • The state should work to simplify and align the accountability system across its different components.


  • Kansas should also consider how to more clearly incorporate subgroup performance, measure individual student growth, combine indicators into a rating system, and identify schools for improvement.


  • Kansas’ strategies for school improvement are very limited—particularly for schools that do not improve after identification. There is a significant risk that these schools could fail to make dramatic changes commensurate with their needs.



Click through the tabs on the left to see how Kansas scored in each category.



Kansas puts forth a broad, but compelling, vision to prepare students “for lifelong success through rigorous, quality academic instruction, career training, and character development according to each student’s gifts and talents.”


The state further clarifies its vision by specifying the definition of a successful high school graduate and five key outcomes to measure progress toward realizing that vision.


Kansas set long-term, ambitious goals, but it is not clear if they are attainable.


Kansas set long-term goals to reach 75 percent proficiency and a 95 percent graduation rate by 2030 for all subgroups. These goals appear ambitious given the state’s baseline, but it is not clear if they are attainable. It is also not clear why Kansas chose these goals or how they relate to the rest of the accountability system. While it is admirable that Kansas set the same goal for all subgroups of students, without additional data, the level of progress set for lowest-performing subgroups seems unattainable.


The state will use “speed to proficiency” to measure the progress of English learners.


Kansas has set a goal for 95 percent of English learners to show progress toward proficiency by 2030. The state will use “speed to proficiency” to measure the progress of English learners in attaining English language proficiency starting in 2022. Until the “speed to proficiency” measure is determined, and new interim goals are established, Kansas will use “progress toward proficiency” to determine whether English learners are making progress in becoming proficient in English.



It is difficult to assess whether Kansas’ revised academic standards are high-quality and rigorous. 


Kansas uses a version of the Common Core State Standards, which are aligned to college and career readiness expectations. However, the state recently revised its standards. The revised math and English Language Arts standards will be implemented beginning in July 2018.


For now, Kansas’ assessments appear to be aligned to the current standards, but aligning cut scores to the ACT raises questions.


The plan notes that the state worked with the ACT to align the state cut scores to the ACT. Since secondary students take the exam in 10th grade, this alignment will allow students and parents to see whether a student is on track for attaining an ACT score in 12th grade that indicates that he or she is ready for postsecondary study and does not need remediation. There is a concern that there is no mention in the plan of whether the state has addressed the alignment of ACT’s College and Career Readiness standards to Kansas’ previous or new standards.


Additionally, it is unclear whether the state provides sufficient accommodations on those tests to English learners and students with disabilities. That said, it appears as though Kansas uses high-quality alternate assessments and English language proficiency assessments.


Kansas has room to improve when it comes to translating assessments for English learners, and the state could provide more information about how it plans to accommodate students with disabilities.


In Kansas, 9 percent of students are English learners whose native language is Spanish. The state provides an assessment feature in which key academic words can be translated into Spanish. The plan could be strengthened by providing full translations of assessments rather than only key word translations. The state also has videos to accompany assessments in American Sign Language. The state’s plan could be improved by providing information about how it will support languages other than Spanish and by describing its accommodations for students with disabilities.


Finally, Kansas could strengthen its plan by providing more information about their alternate achievement standards and aligned assessments for students with the most severe cognitive disabilities, including how the state will ensure that it will meet the 1 percent cap on alternate assessments.


The state’s plan would be stronger if it included consequences for schools that do not meet the 95 percent participation threshold, overall or for particular subgroups.


Kansas will identify schools that do not meet the requirement for two consecutive years, but it is unclear why waiting two years is necessary and whether ongoing technical assistance is sufficient to identify and improve a school that does not meet this requirement. A more meaningful 95 percent participation provision would help preserve the integrity of the state’s accountability system and ensure that all students are represented equitably.



Overall, Kansas does not provide sufficient information about the few indicators it chose or how they will be measured.


The indicators Kansas chose will not be combined into a summative rating. Instead, for each indicator, schools and districts will receive a designation of not meeting, meeting, or exceeding expectation, but it is not clear how those determinations are used. The state includes academic proficiency in mathematics and English Language Arts, graduation rates, English language proficiency, a measure of gap closure for schools with the lowest-performing students and subgroups, as well as an indicator designed to incentivize schools to reduce the percentage of students scoring at the lowest performance levels on state assessments.


Kansas has elected to use a gap measure in English Language Arts and mathematics for non-high schools.


This indicator measures whether schools increase the performance of students who are 1.5 standard deviations below the mean at the district, school, and subgroup levels. While Kansas should be commended for focusing on the lowest-performing students, targeting students who perform 1.5 standard deviations below average may be setting too low of a bar and may not be easily understandable for educators and parents.


As its school quality indicator, Kansas will measure the percentage of students scoring at the Academic Performance Indicator levels 1 and 2 (see “Academic Progress” tab). The long-term goal is to have 5 percent or fewer students score at those levels by 2030. Determinations will be made for each subgroup, and all will have the same long-term goal, which means that lower-performing subgroups will have steeper interim goals.


It also appears Kansas is using chronic absenteeism, suspensions, and expulsions, although these indicators are not clearly defined or sufficiently explained.



Kansas will give schools credit for students performing at higher levels, but the plan doesn’t include specific measures for student growth.


For its student achievement indicator, Kansas will use a performance index that gives schools credit for students performing at higher levels. While this will help encourage schools to move students up along the performance continuum, it is not a measure of student-level growth. As a part of its performance indicator, the state includes a measure that tracks student performance across the eight performance bands on the state assessments. The ultimate goal is to decrease the percentage of students scoring at levels 1 and 2. Points are awarded to students based on their performance band. The state’s plan could be improved by including a specific measure of student growth.



While ESSA requires that states identify a school with any low-performing subgroup for targeted support, Kansas plans to identify just 5 percent of schools with low-performing subgroups.


It does not appear that Kansas will be incorporating subgroup scores into the school rating system, which the state uses to identify schools in need of comprehensive support. Instead, the state plans to identify just 5 percent of schools with low-performing subgroups as in need of targeted support, contrary to ESSA’s requirement that states identify a school with any low-performing subgroup as a school in need of targeted support and improvement.


The state should consider strengthening its plan to more closely align with ESSA’s goal of ensuring that all schools with low-performing groups of students are identified and supported.


Kansas’ plan could be improved by requiring the lowest-performing groups to make the greatest gains.


Kansas uses its gap measure to identify low-performing subgroups (see “Academic Progress” tab). However, this measure could be improved by requiring the lowest-performing subgroups to make more progress rather than only reaching the performance of 1.5 standard deviations below the mean (see the “All Students” category).


Kansas’ subgroup size seems to be arbitrarily high.


Finally, Kansas is planning to require a school to have 30 students in a subgroup in order for that subgroup to count for accountability purposes. There does not appear to be any data on the impact of choosing this number. Furthermore, this n-size is significantly high and could mask the performance of smaller subgroups, particularly in a state like Kansas.



Kansas’ school identification system is difficult to understand, and it is not clear whether the schools most in need of support will be identified.


The plan leaves unclear how exactly the state would incorporate its Academic Performance Index, which rates and combines students’ performance, with its other indicators to form its school rating system.


Every three years, the state will identify the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools—based 60 percent on academic performance on English Language Arts and mathematics, and 40 percent on chronic absenteeism and the percentage of students suspended or expelled. Additionally, high schools with graduation rates of less than 67 percent will be identified, as will targeted support and improvement schools that fail to show progress in closing gaps. In this case, the state should clarify the progress necessary to demonstrate sufficient gap closure.


Without accounting directly for subgroup performance and without a student-level growth measure that is pegged to proficiency or college and career readiness, it is not clear whether the schools most in need of support will be identified. Kansas identifies schools with low subgroup performance compared to the state average, but it is not clear how many schools will be identified using the state’s methodology.



Kansas’ plan for supporting schools appears to be entirely focused around technical assistance, but it provides very few specifics.


Kansas’ strategy appears to be entirely focused on the Kansas Learning Network (KLN) providing technical assistance. Without information about the KLN, it is hard to see how technical assistance alone will provide the intervention and support necessary to turn around the lowest-performing schools in the state. The plan does say that the KLN will assist with evidence-based interventions, which is promising, but there is no description of how this process will work. Kansas also does not intend to provide any more rigorous interventions for schools that continue to struggle.


In its plan, the state provides only a vague, limited description of overly general interventions and technical assistance. For schools that fail to exit comprehensive support status after three years, the only intervention provided is additional technical assistance to the school. The district will also receive technical assistance focused on system changes and supports, but no details are provided.


Kansas is not clear how it plans to use federal funds for school improvement activities.


The state does not clearly describe how it plans to allot the 7 percent of Title I funds set aside for school improvement activities. Additionally, the state should indicate whether and how it intends to provide direct student services using the optional 3 percent of funds set aside.



Kansas’ criteria for exiting improvement status are vague and do not define what schools would need to do to demonstrate success.


While Kansas has provided exit criteria that include a number of important elements to show meaningful, sustained improvements, the actual criteria articulated are vague and undefined. Schools must maintain their improvement plan, spend funds according to their plan, and make an unspecified amount of progress.


Schools identified for comprehensive support can exit after two years of working with the Kansas Learning Network. To exit, schools and districts must maintain an improvement plan; demonstrate that their 1003 funds were used for evidence-based interventions; show improvement on chronic absenteeism, suspensions, and expulsions; and show progress on English Language Arts and mathematics assessments. However, the state does not define requisite progress, leaving school leaders in the dark.


Those schools identified for comprehensive support due to a low graduation rate have the same exit criteria but must also show progress on graduation rates. Similarly, the state does not define what sufficient progress would entail.


Targeted support schools will retain their identified status for three years but are eligible to apply to exit after two years; however, the requirements to exit this status remain unclear.


To exit, a school or district must maintain a school improvement plan; provide evidence that they took advantage of technical assistance opportunities; and provide data showing that they are closing gaps for subgroups that were identified. Again, the necessary improvement actually required to exit this status is undefined.



Kansas’ plan does not provide any information regarding its continuous improvement efforts.


The state should make clear how it will make adjustments and improvements to its ESSA plan and also identify structures and strategies to engage with stakeholders and take their feedback into consideration as they revise their plan over the next few years.

Learn more about why these categories matter: