Really, KSDE? Bragging about a record grade inflation rate?

The Kansas Department of Education conducted a “Kansan’s Can Success Tour‘ in 2021 that felt like high school pep talks, with the announcement of record-breaking high school graduation rates ushered in with great fanfare. But it was really about grade inflation.

KSDE awarded sixty-five Gold Awards and twenty-six Silver Awards to districts with high school graduation rates of 93% or more. But how many school districts do you think have received gold or silver awards for academic readiness? Just one – Unified School District (USD) 207 at the Fort Leavenworth military base.

Now KSDE is doing another round on the grade inflation tour.

Commissioner Randy Watson last week announced the state school board that the Kansas high school class graduated in 2022 with a rate of 89.3%, more than a percentage point higher than in 2021 and three percentage points higher than in 2015.

Performance has not improved since 2015. On the contrary clearly lower.

In math, the proficiency rate for high school students has fallen from 24% in 2015 to 20% now. The art of English fell from 30% to 25%. As of 2017, there are more students below grade than they are proficient in both subjects, and these gaps are widening.

This is no coincidence and cannot be blamed on COVID. In 2016, Watson convinced the State Board of Education to place less emphasis on academic preparation and instead measure success based on graduation rates, implementation of social-emotional learning, and other factors that do not measure academic preparation.

This makes graduation rates more like grade inflation than academic preparation.

As the late great Walter Williams said, “It is grossly dishonest for the education system and politicians to boast of unprecedented graduation rates when the majority of high school diplomas do not represent academic achievement. At best, they certify participation.”

Schools give diplomas to students who cannot read or do arithmetic at the grade level

The examination for the state assessment test takes place for the last time in the 10thth grade, but there is no reason to believe that the last two years of high school have improved skills.

In 2022, 20% of them mastered mathematics and 25% ELA. When they entered third grade in 2015, their proficiency levels were 51% and 47%, respectively, and there has been a steady decline since then.

Superintendents and school board members sit in silence as diplomas are awarded to undergrad students.

This harsh reality was articulated at a 2019 meeting of the Overland Park Chamber of Commerce’s Public Policy and Advocacy Committee. Several committee members expressed strong disagreements about students receiving a diploma despite being below grade level. A member questioned the speaker’s motives and stormed out of the room. But the two school supervisors who were present said nothing. Olathe Superintendent John Allison and Shawnee Mission Superintendent Michael Fulton did not offer a rebuttal because they could not challenge the results of the state assessment.

It’s shameful to celebrate grade inflation. This is not a teacher problem; It’s a management issue, and management consistently demonstrates its disregard for academic preparation. Because of this, the legislature must pass laws that follow the child and allow each student to direct their state funding to a school of their choice.

Gov. Kelly, the Democrats, and the anti-choice Republicans should answer a simple question—how many years…or decades…will it take education officials to bring students under the status quo to acceptable levels of achievement?

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