State Board of Education President Jim Porter made a conscious attempt to deceive members of the House K-12 Budget Committee yesterday about student achievement in Kansas.

Committee Chair Kristey Williams asked Porter about efforts to improve achievement, but instead of answering her question, he said a report from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) shows Kansas has higher standards on its state assessment than most states.  And then he delivered the deception.

Jim Porter, KBOE

“So when you learn that X% of students are Proficient or above (on NAEP) and we should compare that to, well, typically Florida, you need to see where those (state assessment levels) are.”

That’s like asking ‘did you walk to school or buy your lunch;’ one has nothing to do with the other.

Students who take the NAEP test are all taking the same test with the same standards, regardless of their home state.  Porter and the rest of the education lobby don’t want you to know the truth about student achievement because it shows Kansas has been going backward while states like Florida are making improvements.

Kansas first participated in NAEP in 1998.  Proficiency for low-income 4th-graders was 22% but it dropped to 20% in 2019.  Florida began transforming public education in 1999 and their proficiency has since improved from 12% to 28%.  The U.S. public school average improved from 12% to 21%.

Results are similar for Reading Proficiency in the 8th grade.  Kansas fell from 21% to 19%, Florida improved from 11% to 25%, and the national public average also improved from 14% to 20%.  In both 4th grade and the 8th grade, Kansas went from being considerably above the national average (although both averages are pretty low) to being below the national average in 2019.

Giving Kids a Fighting Chance

Porter has a history of making deceptive and misleading claims about public education; we documented a dozen such transgressions in a 2016 column he had published by several Kansas newspapers.

He and many other members of the education lobby routinely attempt to deceive legislators and parents about student achievement because their focus is primarily on the institutional interests of school boards, teacher unions (not teachers, just the unions), and administrators.  They are especially horrified by Florida’s remarkable gains because they’ve come from a combination of choice, transparency, and accountability – each of which is vehemently opposed by the Kansas education lobby.

Our documentary on Florida’s turnaround, Giving Kids a Fighting Chance, tells how they did it from the perspective of former Gov. Bush, the head of the Miami Urban League, educators, and parents.

To borrow a phrase from the documentary, education is the civil rights issue of our time; it’s the social justice issue of our times, and it’s the economic issue of our times.

Take 35 minutes to watch Giving Kids a Fighting Chance.  Compare Florida’s effort to the institutional posturing of the Kansas education lobby and you’ll understand why they work so hard to deceive you – and why Kansas kids so desperately need you to tell your legislators to give them a fighting chance.

If you aren’t sure who represents you in the House and Senate, click here.  You can download contact information for House members here; contact information for Senators is here.

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