While Kansas students performance on the annual state math assessment essentially stayed flat from 2016 to 2017, their performance on the English and language arts portion on the annual tests decreased slightly over the same year, members of the Kansas State Board of Education learned on Tuesday.

“I think it’s going to take a more detailed analysis of that data to actually get into what occurred specifically,” Kansas Education Commissioner Randy Watson said, adding he expects state test scores will begin to increase slowly as the design of Kansas schools goes through a transition.

“We will see a slow rise, not a rapid rise like we saw with No Child Left Behind,” he said. “You’re not going to see a steep ascendency. We’re not going to teach to the test.”

There are four performance levels that Kansas students achieve on the annual state assessments. Level 1 and Level 2 are considered below or just meeting grade level, respectively, with those students needing significant or additional learning supports. Students who perform at Levels 3 and 4 are considered ready for college with little to no remedial help needed once they reach postsecondary education, respectively.

In 2016, a combined 65.54 percent of students performed at Levels 1 and 2 in math. In 2017, the percentage of students performing at Levels 1 and 2 in math grew slightly to a combined 65.82 percent. In 2016, a 34.44 combined percent of students performed at Levels 3 and 4 in math while in 2017 that percentage dropped slightly to 34.16 percent.

For English and language arts assessment scores in 2016, a combined 58.65 percent of Kansas students performed at Levels 1 and 2 compared to a combined 61.77 percentage of students performed at Levels 1 and 2 in 2017.

Only 41.33 percent of Kansas students were performing at Levels 3 and 4 on the English and language arts assessment test in 2016. That combined percentage dropped in 2017 to 38.21 percent in 2017.

Watson said he expects when Kansas schools fully transition through the state department of education’s redesign and accreditation processes, he expects there will be a lowering of the number of students in Level 1 and an increase in the number of students in Levels 3 and 4, primarily in Level 3, he said.

“That’s what we believe but we’re going to need to monitor it over the next couple of years,” he said. “I think it’s something to watch, especially at the school level.”

“A real key, from a policy level,” Watson continued, “is to watch what’s happening with graduation coupled with postsecondary effectiveness and make sure that is on a steady rise, going up over the next several years.”

While there was a 2 percent increase in the number of students who took the college-readiness ACT from 2013 to 2017, Watson said there were also fewer students who took ACT core classes, meaning fewer students who took four years of English and four years of math. The state’s average ACT scores in reading, English and math dropped a total of 0.2 percent this year from 2016.

The number of students taking dual credit classes — meaning they’re earning college credits while they’re in high school — is “exploding,” Watson said.

“We’ve got some measures up, we’ve got some measures down,” he said. “What is that telling us? I don’t think we know the answer right now to that but we have to measure it over years and we have to measure it against postsecondary success.”