Reading and math proficiency fell to historic lows on the 2022 NAEP test, with just a third of 4th-grade proficient and only a quarter of 8th-graders.  The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is administered by the U.S. Department of Education and is considered the gold standard of student achievement measurement in the nation.  A NAEP study last month of 9-year-olds showed the biggest learning loss in 50 years nationwide.

Only 31% of 4th-graders in Kansas read proficiently, and 26% of 8th-graders.  Kansas first participated in the NAEP reading assessment in 1998, when proficiency was 34% and 36%, respectively.

In math, 35% of 4th-graders and just 23% of 8th-graders are proficient.  Last year, 40% of 4th-graders were proficient, and 33% in the 8th grade.

The disappointing 2022 NAEP results come on the heels of similarly disturbing news on the state assessment.

Educational discrimination persists on 2022 NAEP results

Income-based educational discrimination remains evident.  The gaps narrowed a bit in three of the four income-based comparisons, but only because proficiency fell more for students who are not low-income than those who qualify for free or reduced lunch.  The 4th-grade math gap widened from 32 points to 35 points.

In all but one of the eight primary measurements (reading and math, low-income and other students, 4th-grade and 8th-grade), performance is lower than in 2003; 4th-grade reading for low-income students is the same, at 18%.

Kansas also dropped more than the national average in seven of the eight categories.  For example, 4th-grade reading proficiency for kids who aren’t low-income fell seven points, from 48% to 41%, whereas the national average was a 5-point decline.  The worst disparity is in 8th-grade math for low-income students, where proficiency fell 10 points in Kansas but just 5 points for the national average.

2022 NAEP National Rankings

The Kansas Association of School Boards likes to claim that Kansas is among the ten best states in the nation, but that has never been true, and it still isn’t.

The state’s best proficiency ranking of #20 is 4th-grade math for kids who are not low-income, at 51%.  It’s lowest ranking (#44) is for low-income students in 8th-grade math.

Switching to raw scores, the national rankings in Kansas go from a best of #18 for low-income students in 4th-grade math to a low of #41 in 8th-grade math for low-income students.

The eight-score composite (average of all scores) gives Kansas a national rank of #36.  In 2019, Kansas was #27.

How school officials handled the pandemic played a role in the declines, but these deeply concerning results cannot solely be attributed to the pandemic.  Whether measured on NAEP, ACT, or the state assessment, achievement has generally been declining for the last seven or eight years, and that isn’t likely to change if the public school system is left to its own devices.

As explained in Kansas Policy Institute’s new book, Giving Kids a Fighting Chance with School Choice, the Kansas public education system – management, not teachers – prioritizes the institutional interests of the system over student needs.  The book tells one story after another of education officials consciously deceiving parents and legislators…de-emphasizing academic improvement…and even ignoring state laws designed to improve achievement.

That’s why nothing will change until parents put enough pressure on the Legislature and the Governor to pass money-follow-the-child legislation so every parent can send their children to the school that they believe is best for them.

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