The Obama education agenda, applied to Kansas

Education writer Diane Ravitch issues a verdict in her piece The Obama Education Agenda: “Despite White House press claims to the contrary, NCLB has been a huge disappointment, and its failure is not due to lack of funding.”

That’s not what we hear in Kansas. Schools constantly complain about inadequate funding, and sue the state over this matter.

But at least there’s rising test scores — maybe. As USD 259, the Wichita public school district, proudly trumpets to all who will listen, there are eleven years of rising test scores. But when you look under the covers, the news is not all that great. As I show in Wichita Test Scores Largely Mirror Kansas, the trend in Wichita test scores is almost the same as for the state as a whole. And what does Ravitch have to say about state assessments?

Although states are reporting impressive test-score gains, most of these “gains” are the result of home-grown, low standards. The gains on the highly respected federal National Assessment of Educational Progress have been meager since 2002. In fact, the gains on the federal test have been smaller since 2002 than in the years preceding NCLB. … With the stakes so high, NCLB has turned every school into a test-preparation factory, focused solely on reading and mathematics. They are the only subjects that count in a school’s ranking, so teachers routinely reduce attention to history, science, foreign language, literature, geography, the arts and other non-tested subjects. With this narrowing of the curriculum, students may be getting dumbed down even if their scores go up.

We need to know if the state of Kansas has watered down its testing standards.

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