Satisfaction with public schools in some of the state’s largest districts was lower than might be expected pre-COVID, and their COVID response grades are even lower.

For example, 56% of participants in the Blue Valley school district in Johnson County gave schools an ‘A’ pre-COVID, but only 33% for the district’s COVID response.  Only 6% gave the district a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ pre-COVID but that jumped to 18% for their COVID response.

Similar results were found in Shawnee Mission, with 73% giving an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ pre-COVID but just 55% for the district’s COVID response.  Pre-COVID, 7% of participants gave a ‘D’ or an ‘F’ but that jumped to 13% for the COVID response.

The survey was conducted by Cor Strategies between June 7 and June 12 on behalf of Kansas Policy Institute, which owns the Sentinel.

Satisfaction in the Sedgwick/Butler County area was lower pre-COVID with 66% of participants giving an ‘A’ or ‘B’ in Andover, 50% in Goddard, and 41% in Wichita.  The survey also found a higher level of participants giving those districts a ‘D’ or an ‘F’; Andover (18%), Goddard (23%), and Wichita (23%).  The Kansas City, Kansas district had similar results as in Wichita.

Achievement lower than parents led to believe

Perception of student achievement has a big impact on public satisfaction. With achievement being much lower than parents are led to believe, satisfaction would likely decline if parents knew the truth.

According to the Kansas Department of Education, there are more high school students below grade level than are on track for college and career.  And that is the case for four of the six surveyed districts in math – Goddard, Kansas City, Shawnee Mission, and Wichita.  Shawnee Mission has 35% below grade level, 32% at grade level but need remedial training and just 33% on track for college and career.  Goddard has 30% below grade level and 25% on track.  Kansas City has 66% below grade level and only 10% on track; the Wichita results 60% and 10%, respectively.

It’s hard to imagine that over half of Blue Valley voters would give the district an ‘A’ or a ‘B’ if they understood that 21% of high school students are below grade level and only 49% on track for college and career.

These results are from the 2019 state assessment; no test was given in 2020.  Test results for this year will be released in November and could show declines, given that many school districts deprived students of in-person learning for a good portion of the year.

David Dorsey, a Senior Education Policy Fellow with Kansas Policy Institute, predicts that the 2021 results will be worse than in 2019.  He cites research indicating that low-income students will suffer the most from the lack of in-person learning this last school year.  Dorsey thinks education officials will shrug it off as a COVID phenomenon.

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