The Kansas At-Risk program, which was designed to improve academic achievement for low-income students, grew from just over $52 million a year in 2005 to over $390 million annually in 2015. That is an astonishing 650% increase in just a decade!
And it didn’t work.
Achievement for low income students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) was virtually unchanged during that period, as shown on the info-graph. By 2015, only about one-in-four 4th graders were proficient in math while only one-in-five tested proficient in reading. Eighth-graders fared about the same, with 19% and 22% proficient in math and reading, respectively.
KSDE was clear in its directive to school districts regarding the intent of at-risk funding. In their words :The purpose of the Kansas At-Risk Program is to provide at-risk students with additional educational opportunities and instructional services to assist in closing the achievement gap.
However, even with the court-ordered ballooning of funding for the at-risk program, achievement gaps have remained unacceptably significant and virtually unchanged in all areas of testing.
As KPI reported in this published document, much of the money wasn’t targeted directly toward low-income students, districts were not held accountable for the way they spent the money and very little information about the program was provided to the public.
As the legislature creates the new education financing law, it is incumbent upon them to redevelop the at-risk program to put first those Kansas students for whom the program was designed.