Another Reason to Celebrate in the New Year
January 2016 Superintendent’s Message
The quality of local schools can be a deciding factor when families are searching for a place to live. Recently announced achievement data gives us cause for celebration and a renewed assurance that Emporia schools are consistently excelling.
In a recent report to the Emporia Board of Education, the Teaching and Learning Department shared the results of the 2015 Kansas assessments in English language arts and mathematics along with 2015 ACT scores for our high school students. The results give us two indicators of progress: (1) the number of students achieving at grade level or above and (2) the number on track to be college and career ready.
It is important to note 2015 state assessments were much different from those students have taken in the past. Kansas increased the rigor of the math and reading assessments and each student receives a unique set of questions depending upon his or her response to previous questions. In other words, the tests adapt to the students’ performance levels. As students answer problems correctly, the next set of problems increases in difficulty.
The range of scores on the new assessments defines four performance levels of 1 – 4 with four being highest. Scores in levels 2, 3 and 4 indicate a student is “on grade level.” Scores in levels 3 and 4 indicate a student is on track to be “college and career ready,” the standard we strive to meet.
In English language arts, Emporia students scored consistently with the rest of the state. Based on this assessment, 81 percent of our students in the seven grades tested are performing on grade level and 40 percent are on track to be college and career ready.
In math, a similar story unfolds. Average scores show 78 percent of our students are performing on grade level and 33 percent are on track to be college and career ready.
Another section of the board report analyzed ACT scores since 2006. These tests are widely used to anticipate college success in English, math, reading, and science. Historically, the trend for Emporia students has been consistently below the state average; but in recent years, we have begun to close that gap. It is reasonable to expect that the more math and science courses students take in high school, the more likely they are to score in a range considered college and career ready. But one thing stands out: Emporia students who take the higher level math and science classes consistently score higher than their statewide counterparts who also take those math and science courses.
State assessments and ACT scores are only two pieces of information that help teachers, students and parents gauge academic progress and guide instruction. Our schools also use other measures such as periodic teacher quizzes and assessments, grades, attendance, graduation and drop-out rates to assess progress.
These results tell us two things. First, Emporia students are performing at or above the achievement levels of their counterparts across the state even though Emporia classrooms have much more language and economic diversity than most districts in Kansas.
Secondly, our hard work and increasing emphasis on new Kansas College and Career-Ready standards are putting Emporia students ahead of the pack.
Business leaders know that good schools mean more and better qualified employees for the future. And yes, school quality is an important factor when looking for a place to raise a family or grow a company. We all want the very best education for our children.
Our scores are promising in terms of our competitive edge but we won’t be satisfied until every student is identified as college and career ready.
The new Kansas Building Report Card has just been released by the Kansas Department of Education. You’ll notice a new format with a more balanced picture of district performance as well as that of individual schools. Over time, additional data will be added to the report. I hope you will take some time to view the Building Report Card for USD 253 and our schools. You can find the report at www.ksde.org under Data and Reports.