STANDARDS AND ASSESSMENTS
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.