According to the federal government’s No Child Left Behind act, the Kansas City Kansas Public Schools have not made adequate yearly progress (AYP) for the past eight years. Yet, over the past 16 years they have improved their reading scores from 11 to 68 percent and their math scores from 3 to 67 percent. Many of their students still struggle, but now the district would like permission to measure success its own way.
During this month’s Kansas State Board of Education meeting, KCK Superintendent Cynthia Lane and her staff requested a waiver of the requirement to administer the state’s standardized tests. The federal government uses these test results to determine whether schools are making AYP according to the No Child Left Behind Act. Instead, the district proposes to use the ACT Educational Planning and Assessment System (EPAS) tests to show the abilities of students in grades 8-12 and NWEA-MAP tests for younger students.
Students throughout the United States take ACT tests to gain admission to college. The Northwest Evaluation Association designed the NWEA-MAP test to assess skills required by the new national Common Core Standards, which Kansas and 46 other states have adopted.
“We believe that the EPAS assessments and the MAP are more rigorous and meaningful, and will serve as true indicators of success that demonstrate students are fully prepared for college and careers upon graduation from high school,” Superintendent Lane wrote in her waiver request to the state board.
KCK’s request for a waiver of the requirement to administer state standardized assessment tests is not unprecedented. Earlier this year, the McPherson, Kan., school district became the first in the nation to receive a waiver from the United States Department of Education. They, too, are planning to administer ACT tests in lieu of state assessments.
The No Child Left Behind Act has been controversial because of its expectation that all students in all public schools must reach 100 percent proficiency on state assessments by 2014. The act is overdue for re-authorization by the U.S. Congress, but they may not address the issue this year. Therefore, U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced earlier this week that he would waive the federal mandate for states upon request. Federal waiver details should come next month.
In addition to KCK, the Clifton-Clyde School District from Clifton, Kan., presented a waiver request at the Kansas State Board of Education monthly meeting, which took place August 9-10 in Topeka.