Reading, Math Standards Unattainable, Officials Say
Ohanian Comment: It's interesting that it's politicos declaring NCLB standards unrealistic and unattainable. Where are the educators? Children are ill-served by their silence.
by Steve Painter
Topeka -- The State Board of Education should repeal standards that
require all students to achieve reading and math proficiency by 2014,
Attorney General Phill Kline said Tuesday.
Not doing so could cost the state an untold amount of money, Kline and
the Senate vice president warned.
The board took no action on Kline's request at Tuesday's meeting and may
not in the future, board president Steve Abrams said. But he expects it
to receive more discussion.
The achievement standards comply with the federal No Child Left Behind
law, which requires annual improvement in reading and math test scores
until all students are proficient at their grade level.
Senate Vice President John Vratil, R-Leawood, appearing with Kline,
called the standards "unrealistic and unattainable," saying that many of
the factors leading to underachievement are beyond schools' control.
"We are setting ourselves up for failure by virtue of the
100-percent-proficiency standard," he said.
He told the board it was not an attempt to "dumb down" the standards to
save the state money, as some critics have suggested.
Kline said the Kansas Supreme Court, which still has jurisdiction over a
school funding lawsuit, is likely to "enshrine" the standards in the
Kansas Constitution at an unknown cost to the state.
The court could force the state to increase funding to public schools to
meet the standards.
Added Vratil: "There's probably not enough money in the state of Kansas
to fund a 100-percent standard."
Lawmakers initially approved $142 million more for schools during the
regular session this year. When the court said that wasn't enough,
legislators added $148 million during a contentious two-week special
But the court also said it would consider ordering, "at a minimum," an
additional $568 million for schools next year unless a valid cost study
shows a lesser amount is sufficient.
The court based its figure on a consultant's report of three years ago.
Kline said the standards must be changed to preserve legislative and
state board control over education policy and spending.
"The court is one step away from determining specifically how (school)
funds will be spent," he said.
He and Vratil urged the board to change the standards to "goals," which
drew objections from some board members.
Sue Gamble of Shawnee said annual improvement in achievement rates
nearly doubled after the board made its standards more specific in 2001.
"I don't want to abandon where we're going because I believe we're
making a difference," she said.
Carole Rupe of Wichita called Kline's suggestion "a knee-jerk reaction."
"I think this court was defending the children of Kansas," she said.
Lawmakers had failed to adequately fund schools for several years, Rupe
Diane Gjerstad, lobbyist for the Wichita school district, said removing
the proficiency requirement from the state standards would not exempt
schools from the federal law.
Abrams said the issue probably will be discussed at future board
meetings. He declined to speculate on whether the board would reverse
its earlier action.
"No matter what, it won't be quick," he said.
Regardless of the standards, Kansas schools must comply with No Child
Left Behind or forfeit federal funds.
Many state lawmakers, while supporting the federal act in concept,
expect it to be revised before 2014, when 100 percent proficiency would
INDEX OF NCLB OUTRAGES