Brownback overstated reading problem

In calling for a new reading initiative, Gov. Sam Brownback said in his State of the State address last week that “29 percent of Kansas fourth-graders can’t read at a basic level.” That’s not correct. Brownback’s statistic came from the 2011 National Assessment of Educational Progress survey. But as Lawrence Journal-World education reporter Peter Hancock explained, the sole purpose of NAEP is to see how students in one state compare with those in other states. “It is very specifically not intended to be used as a measure of how any given student measures up against an objective standard of what kids should know at certain grades, which is what the governor attempted to do in his speech,” Hancock wrote. Such an objective standard is provided by the Kansas state assessments, which in 2012 showed that 11.9 percent of fourth-graders failed to meet the state standard in reading. That’s still a significant number, but far less than 29 percent. Hancock also noted that the 2011 NAEP results ranked Kansas 10th best in the nation for the percent of fourth-graders who scored proficient or better on NAEP’s reading test.