You may have heard claims that Kansas has high national rankings on student achievement but unfortunately, that’s not true.  Rankings on the National Assessment of Educational Progress and ACT both show Kansas is only about average overall, and that’s in a nation that doesn’t perform well in international competition.

nat rank NAEP ACT

The large achievement gaps between low income and the more affluent and between Whites and minorities exist in varying degrees across the nation; there are also significant differences in the demographic make-up of each state.

Accordingly, simple comparison of state overall average scores are not valid performance comparison.  A state like Kansas with a predominantly White student population may have a higher average than a state where White students are the minority, even though such state may have better scores on most cohort-to-cohort comparisons.   The adjacent table shows how this works; the overall state average is the sum of each cohort’s weighted average.  For example, a score of 249 for a cohort that comprises 69 percent of the total yields a weighted average of 172 (249 x .69).

Demos skew scoresState #1 has a higher average score (242) even though the cohort scores for State #2 are all higher than State #1.  The achievement gaps for both states are identical (20 points between White and Hispanic, 25 points between White and African American) but State #2 has a much lower proportional White enrollment.

Historic ACT scores are available here, and historic NAEP proficiency levels can be found here.  By the way, a November 2011 press release from the Kansas Department of Education said measurement on NAEP since 2003 is valid and reliable.

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