“Kentucky’s Achievement Gaps: Our Collective Failure”
In one of the most remarkable addresses ever from a Kentucky Secretary of Education to the Kentucky Board of Education, Secretary Hal Heiner made it crystal clear that after a quarter of a century of education reform:
• “Kentucky’s gaps between the academic performance of Black and White students and economically disadvantaged and non-economically disadvantaged students remain pronounced.”
• “Kentucky’s traditional public schools, including schools in our urban school districts, have found no solution for significantly narrowing the gaps.”
• “The Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) recent release of 2016 K-PREP assessment results show that significant achievement gaps persist between African American and White students and between Hispanic and White students.”
• “There is no doubt that across the state and particularly in Fayette and Jefferson counties, we continue to fail to reach our African American students.”
Heiner included a number of examples of continuing serious achievement gap problems in the new 2015-16 Unbridled Learning results for Kentucky. Our readers are already very familiar with these sorts of numbers from the blogs we started to post on September 29, 2016 when the scores were publicly released.
Heiner then went on to discuss one major problem:
• “…with no successful approach in hand for meeting the academic needs of low-income children and children of color, education leaders, interest groups, and policy makers across the Commonwealth fight fiercely to keep schooling approaches out of Kentucky that have proven to be successful with economically disadvantaged children and children of color.”
He then added:
• “It is incomprehensible that leaders and policy makers at the state and local levels year after year assert that our traditional public schools are meeting the needs of economically disadvantaged students and students of color, and that the additional tool of public charter schools, which have been most successful across the country with these very groups of students, are not needed in Kentucky.”
Heiner cited a growing list of examples of charter school success in the other 43 states and in the District of Columbia where charter schools are proving particularly successful with minority and disadvantaged students, summing up with the comment:
• “Kentucky’s 2016 assessment results provide even further evidence that it is past time for Kentucky to pass a strong public charter school law, and bring to our communities and our children a tool which has proven to be successful with reducing racial and socioeconomic achievement gaps. Everything Kentucky is currently doing has proven to not be enough to get the job done.”
During the question period that followed his presentation, Heiner added comments about the incredible 50-point plus white minus black achievement gap in Jefferson County’s Dunn Elementary School, a major problem we highlighted in our “Blacks Continue Falling Through Gaps in Louisville’s Schools, The 2016 Update.”
Board member reaction was interesting. Some clearly don’t want charter schools regardless of the need while others are taking a more open attitude in the light of very strong evidence that Heiner’s comments are well founded. Only the legislature can create the necessary legislation, but the board creates its agenda of desired legislation before every legislative session and lobbies for that agenda, too. So, the board does have a role to play – now.
In recognition of the facts, in the end the board voted to study the issue in greater detail in a meeting that will be scheduled in November.
You can read Secretary Heiner’s full written comments to the board by clicking here.
It might be the most important two-page education discussion you will see in 2016.