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New Kansas Tests Draw Support, Raise Concerns

Mark Tallman, with the Kansas Association of School Boards. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)
Mark Tallman, with the Kansas Association of School Boards. (Photo by Stephen Koranda)

New state tests for Kansas students are garnering praise but also raising some concerns. Scores released this week show most Kansas 10th graders likely won’t be ready for college without some remedial coursework.

The Kansas Association of School Boards supports use of the new tests because they set higher goals for students than in the past. Mark Tallman, with the KASB, says not every student may want to go to college. For those kids who want to attend a university, this can help them determine if they’re on the right track.

“Help parents, students, teachers and everyone else do a better job of planning earlier what a child wants to do and then setting an appropriate curriculum and an appropriate plan to make that happen,” says Tallman.

Republican state Representative Ron Highland chairs the House Education Committee. He’s concerned because the new tests aren’t comparable to old tests, so there won’t be identifiable student trends for several years.

“I don’t really have a problem with the testing and making sure our students are qualified and so forth, but at the state level –and at the parent level– we all want to know where they are, where they’ve been, are they improving or are they not?” says Highland.

Highland says he expects lawmakers will hold hearings in the upcoming legislative session to learn more about the new tests and scores.


Some education officials are praising new tests for Kansas students, but the exams are also raising some questions. The new, more rigorous assessments are aimed at determining if students are on track to be ready for college or a career after graduation. KPR’s Stephen Koranda reports.

The new tests look good to Mark Tallman, with the Kansas Association of School Boards. He hopes grading students on college readiness can get them thinking about what to do after graduation. He says sometimes high school students decide they want to attend college, but they aren’t prepared.
“Because they weren’t focusing on that at the time. That’s when you have kids who may need remediation. They may drop out of school because they weren’t prepared,” says Tallman.
David Dorsey is a former teacher who now works for the Kansas Policy Institute. He has some questions about the new exams, like the widely varied performance. Students in third, fourth and fifth grades  have much better scores.
“How reliable can they be in the elementary grades when you’ve got five or six or even seven times the number of students achieving that level than those in the middle and high school?” says Dorsey.
Education officials have released statewide test results. Local results could be released next month.

Stephen Koranda is KPR's Statehouse reporter.