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Comparing Kansas: Educational Rankings Place Kansas in the Top 10

TOPEKA (KASB) – Kansas ranks 10th in the nation on a weighted average of 16 educational outcomes, according to the most recent data available. Those measures are similar to the Kansas State Board of Education outcomes for school accreditation and accountability. They also reflect the “Rose Capacities” or education goals endorsed by the Kansas Legislature and State Supreme Court. The information is contained in a new report from the Kansas Association of School Boards.

That high ranking is good news, but there are also areas of concern.

Positives

Averaging multiple measures of educational outcomes, Kansas ranks in the top 10 states. On most individual outcomes, including postsecondary participation, high school graduation, and test scores, Kansas ranks at least in the top half of the nation and does better than the average of all states and states in the region. The lowest ranking for Kansas is 30th.

On similar outcomes over the past five years, Kansas has consistently ranked 9th or 10th, so Kansas has maintained its overall position compared to other states.

Kansas also ranks 10th among the top states in the percentage of young adults (age 18-24) with any college, meaning a high percentage of young people enroll in postsecondary programs, from technical and community colleges to four-year programs.

Kansas also ranks in the top ten for graduation rates for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

Among the nine states in the Plains region plus other border states, North Dakota, 4th, Iowa, 6th and Nebraska, 7th, rank ahead of Kansas, 10th. Kansas tops Minnesota, 12th, Missouri, 16th, South Dakota, 30th, Colorado, 31st, and Oklahoma, 46th.

Concerns

While Kansas ranks 10th in the percent of 18-24-year-olds with any postsecondary attainment, it falls to 22nd in the percent of that age group with a bachelor’s degree or higher. That is still in the top half of the country but could indicate Kansas does not do as well preparing students to complete a four-year degree.

Kansas ranks slightly lower on measures for low-income students, such as graduation rate and national reading and math tests than on results for all students or upper-income students.

Kansas’s lowest rankings are for students scoring at the “proficient” level or higher on the National Assessment of Educational Progress reading and math tests (28th for all students, 30th for low-income students and 28th for non-low-income students). While these tests are given to only a small sample of students in Kansas and other states, the results are similar to students scoring at levels three and four on Kansas assessments, which are considered a standard of college readiness.

What these rankings mean for Kansas

The State Board of Education’s Kansas Can outcomes include academic preparation for postsecondary education, high school graduation and postsecondary success (including technical programs, two- and four-year degrees and more) because about 90 percent of jobs now require finishing high school, and 75 percent are expected to require some postsecondary education.

Improving educational outcomes helps individuals, families, businesses and the state as a whole. Each additional level of education increases average earnings, employment opportunities and reduces poverty. Kansas employers say they need more higher-skilled workers. States with higher levels of education have a higher average income.

Ranking education outcomes indicates that the Kansas educational system produces above-average results in most areas. The Kansans Can vision is to lead the world in the success of each student.

Education Outcomes, Funding and Questions for School Leaders

While Kansas ranks 10th overall and in the top 25 states on 12 of the 16 outcomes, according to the U.S. Census Bureau’s Public Education Finances report, Kansas’s total revenue per pupil is ranked 25th in the nation in 2020. That means Kansas “outperformed” its spending ranking in most areas.

Many Kansas school leaders say academic performance was impacted by eight years of school funding falling behind inflation from 2009 to 2017. The Kansas Legislature approved a six-year plan to restore funding, with the final installment approved for next year.

As school boards are adopting budgets for the upcoming year and districts are planning for classes to begin later this summer, school leaders can be considering how their district and schools perform compared to the state and the nation and how to improve. Some questions to consider:

  • How do your academic results, such as state assessments and other measures, compare with the state average and to other districts with similar student needs? What are you doing to improve them?
  • How are you helping students with additional needs who tend to have lower academic performance, lower graduation rates and are less likely to succeed in postsecondary education? How are you using special education, at-risk, bilingual, federal aid and other resources?
  • What efforts are you making to keep students from dropping out, reduce chronic absences and improve graduation rates?
  • How are you using individual plans of study to help students develop a postsecondary plan, including appropriate high school coursework and other guidance to successfully enroll, receive financial assistance, avoid remediation, and complete a credential (certificate and degree program)?

Using these questions to guide improved educational outcomes will help maintain or improve Kansas’ educational ranking as a state and help your district comply with the new school accreditation system for every school district.

An in-depth look at all state rankings can be viewed here.

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