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Are significant numbers of Blue Valley students really not performing at grade level in reading?

BV School Board candidates Bowers, White and McMullen have made this claim. Why in the world would School Board candidates in the top-rated Kansas school district tell voters that our students aren’t performing well...and is it true? Lets break it down.

This “underperforming” lie was started years ago by Dave Trabert, a paid employee of the Kansas Policy Institute (KPI). Who pays KPI’s bills is not fully known, but the organization has been actively working against our public schools since 1996. KPI (and related dark-money organization Americans for Prosperity (AFP), based in VA) have spent years - and countless dollars - repeating this “underperforming” lie until some voters started believing it.

Kansas State Assessments are given each year; students in grades 3-8 and grade 10 are assessed in English language arts and Mathematics. A science assessment is provided in grades 5, 8, and 11. “Scale scores” on state assessments are used to place students’ assessment scores into one of four possible categories, called performance levels.These are defined by KSDE as follows:

Level 1: A student at Level 1 shows a limited ability to understand and use the skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness. Level 2: A student at Level 2 shows a basic ability to understand and use the skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness. Level 3: A student at Level 3 shows an effective ability to understand and use the skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness. Level 4: A student at Level 4 shows an excellent ability to understand and use the skills and knowledge needed for college and career readiness.

Limited...Basic...Effective...Excellent. Pretty simple.

But...Some time ago, Dave Trabert/KPI began twisting State Assessment level definitions. They added the words “but require remedial training” to Level 2. Those four words are NOT on the KSDE website. Trabert repeats this line when he frequently testifies in KsLeg committees, as a paid KPI employee. He writes it in the KPI e-publication.

BV School Board candidate Kaety Bowers writes on her website: “Too many of our students, even in the coveted Blue Valley, are below grade level proficiency in reading or are at grade level but require remedial assistance.” We emailed Bowers to ask where exactly she found the definition used on her website. She didn’t provide a citation or link, but replied “I spoke with” a person at KSDE about state assessment results. We then emailed that person - who replied that he had NOT spoken to Bowers, but he had exchanged emails with her. He shared the content of his email to Bowers, and explained “Nowhere on our (KSDE’s) site do we reference that a level 2 student is going to need remedial work.” He copied a portion of what he had communicated to Bowers: “Level 3 performance describes an “effective ability” for the student to demonstrate success in college level work. That does not mean that a student scoring at level 2 with a “basic ability” cannot also be successful in college. Actually, after KU did an alignment study with the ACT, a mid-level 2 on the state assessment equated to an ACT readiness mark in ELA. There are too many other skills necessary for student success in college than just the state assessment measure.”

Bowers was given information by KSDE indicating that a student scoring mid-level 2 equates to an ACT readiness mark in ELA. Yet, she not only left the incorrect KPI claim on her website, Bowers also persisted in repeating the same misinformation in emails after we asked her for a citation on this claim.

Christine White has stated she’s withdrawing from the race, but her website is still active. Her claim: “A majority of Blue Valley's students in elementary and high school are either below grade level for reading, or at grade level but require remedial training.” ***This wording is right out of Dave Trabert’s mouth.***

McMullen says on his website: “Blue Valley is an accomplished school district, and yet, approximately half of our students read below grade level or at grade level with a need for remediation.” Again - wording and definitions made up by Trabert and KPI, not supported by KSDE definitions or found on the KSDE website. McMullen is referring to students at Levels 1 PLUS 2 when he claims “approximately half” - while KSDE categorizes Level 2 as reading at grade level.

There is no question that some Blue Valley students struggle with reading, including students with dyslexia who have unique challenges requiring specific interventions. Moreover, students don’t only enroll in our schools in Kindergarten - they enter at every grade through 12. As a public school district, Blue Valley accepts every child who moves into the district and works to bridge any academic gaps that may be identified.

So long as there is even one student reading below grade level, there is work to be done. No School Board candidate disputes that. Yet...why do

, White, and McMullen want voters to believe that large numbers of Blue Valley students aren’t reading at grade level? That doesn’t compute with our district’s ACT scores, for one thing. What voters are they targeting with this misinformation, and where are they getting these talking points?

Do Bowers, White, and McMullen really believe the lies from dark-money-funded KPI and AFP to the extent they’ll use them as campaign positions? Or are these three candidates backed by KPI and AFP? Or both?

People and businesses move to Blue Valley for the schools - because our schools are EXCELLENT. Our students perform extremely well on state assessments, ACT, and other measures. And our students don’t only excel academically - they earn awards in athletics, music, theater, debate, DECA, the list goes on. Candidates for Blue Valley School Board should be applauding our students, and the teachers, coaches, and staff who guide, teach, and mentor them. Painting our district as under-performing simply does not hold water.

Voters MUST say enough is enough on November 2. We must send a message to AFP and KPI-backed candidates that we value our community’s schools and we expect a School Board that does, too.

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