I wrote a few days ago about new research from the Kentucky Department of Education that compares average mathematics letter grades to performance on Kentucky’s math assessments.
That initial blog discusses the fact that Kentucky’s children of color are generally getting higher letter grades for math than white students receive for similar test score performance.
Today, I expand on that with another graph from the recently released “The State of P-12 Education in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” This new graph compares the overall average math grades for all high school students to the probability the students are really ready for college math. The test measure is the ACT college entrance test, and the ACT readiness score has been set by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) as a rather undemanding low of 19.
The Kentucky Department of Education says the figures used to generate the graph are for average performances across 2012 to 2016 data.
There are some disturbing things in this graph.
The far right side of the graph provides evidence that even consistently scoring an “A” in Kentucky public high school math courses provides no guarantee of real math readiness. Less than 75 percent of the students who averaged an “A” in their high school math courses were also able to pass muster against the undemanding ACT target set by the CPE.
Things get more bothersome quickly as we move down the grade scale. Even for those students averaging a “B” in math, the picture is pretty grim. Fewer than one in two of those students are likely to meet the low requirement set by the CPE. For students with still lower math grades, the odds of surviving college math look pretty gruesome.
By the way, while the CPE says an ACT math score of 19 is good enough to avoid remedial coursework in college, the ACT says that a notably higher math score of 22 is actually needed to have at least a 75 percent chance of getting at least a “C” in the lower-level college math course of algebra.
In Kentucky’s public postsecondary system, a grade point average below 2.0 (generally a “C” average) will not allow graduation.
We often hear that high school grade point averages are better predictors of college performance than other factors like ACT scores. That correlation might have been true in the past, but when grading in Kentucky’s public school system today seems in too many cases to vary widely from real performances needed to succeed, this old rule of thumb might not be true anymore.
In any event, parents beware. Just because your kid gets an “A,” don’t think you are home free. There are plenty of stories of “A” students arriving on campus only to discover that they are not ready for college level math. Sometimes, that shock is more than our kids today can handle. And, based on this new research from the Kentucky Department of Education, it looks like there is plenty of room for even “A” students to get some very unpleasant surprises upon college entry.
While the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly has had its share of party-line votes, some policies designed to make government more transparent and accountable have garnered bipartisan support.
The decision by House Speaker Jeff Hoover and Senate President Robert Stivers to direct the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) to publish committee votes online within 24 hours is being hailed by policymakers across the political spectrum.
The decision resulted from a letter spearheaded by the United Kentucky Tea Party and signed by groups as diverse in their political views as Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer are concerning immigration policy – from Take Back Kentucky to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Apart from the most controversial bills, which usually result in the filing of floor amendments, most legislation’s heavy lifting occurs in committee hearings.
“Because the House and Senate committees have great influence on the consideration of bills by the full body, it is imperative that this critical process is similarly visible to the citizens of Kentucky,” the jointly signed letter.
Your humble correspondent enthusiastically signed as president of the Bluegrass Institute, which led the effort in 2005 to give citizens prompt access to votes on bills taken on the state House and Senate floors.
While that certainly was a giant step forward, making committee roll-call votes available in real time will, as Speaker Pro-Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, observed, give constituents “access to every move we make on their behalf.”
House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, also said his side of the aisle “concur and support the publication of legislative committee votes posted online.”
It should also change the practice of legislators passing on votes to avoid tough politically fraught decisions.
Committee-vote results for the remainder of this legislative session can be obtained by clicking:
- “Legislation” at the top of the LRC website’s home page, then
- “2017 Regular Session,” then
- “In Senate” or “In House,” depending on which of the chamber’s committee voted on the bill.
It’s temporarily clunky. However, the information will become much-more useful once committee votes are included on bills’ vote history, which will be added later.
Senate Bill 3, which passed with a 95-1 vote during the session’s first week, is proving not only to make taxpayer dollars more transparent but also to have great impact as taxpayers get a full view of 400 current and retired lawmakers’ pension benefits.
Such transparency has made it possible for reporters and media outlets statewide to report on politicians who reap a six-figure pension by gaming the legislative retirement system for a lifetime while also double-dipping via collecting a second fat check from other state benefit plans.
Space doesn’t permit me to give you the lowdown on several other retired politicians collecting more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded pension benefits nor on the sexual harassers, felons, even murderers who receive a lifetime of public-retirement checks courtesy of we, the taxpayers.
But you can see it for yourself now.
Another policy that deserves the same type of overwhelming bipartisan support is Louisville Rep. Ken Fleming’s proposal to conduct an inventory of state government with the goal of cutting wasteful duplication and costs of services.
Fleming’s House Joint Resolution 35 directs the Finance and Administration Cabinet to determine what services currently are provided by each department or agency, the price tag of those services and “the feasibility of privatizing, consolidating, or otherwise changing those functions and services to achieve costs savings.”
Based on his experience as a small-business owner and former Louisville Metro Council member, Fleming told me he believes there’s a “silo mentality approach to government operations” which too often results in “a lack of truly understanding the cost of delivering services,” as well as duplication of delivery of services – some of which government should not even be doing.
“Government cannot be run as a business, but it sure can embrace a lot of business applications,” Fleming said.
That’s an idea both sides of the political aisle can – and should – embrace.
Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read his weekly Bluegrass Beacon column at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at email@example.com and @bipps on Twitter.
LEXINGTON — The Bluegrass Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will host a free public forum Feb. 23 titled, “Finding real facts in an alternative fact world.”
A panel of local, regional and national professionals will examine the role of the news media and provide a better public understanding of how it works. The group also hopes to facilitate an ongoing conversation about the importance of a free press in a democracy. The event will be 6:30-8 p.m. in Room A of Central Library, 140 E. Main Street, Lexington.
Panelists include Jim Waters, newspaper columnist and president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a free-market think tank; Ryan Craig, owner of The Todd County Standard, a weekly newspaper in Western Kentucky and president of the Kentucky Press Association; Tom Eblen, columnist and former managing editor of The Lexington Herald-Leader; Campbell Robertson, national correspondent for The New York Times; and Kathy Stone, assistant news director at television station WLEX-18; and
Moderating will be Ginny Whitehouse, Ph.D., a journalism professor at Eastern Kentucky University specializing in media literacy, ethics and law.
Kentucky Commissioner of Education Stephen Pruitt delivered his second annual “The State of P-12 Public Education in the Commonwealth of Kentucky” report today, making extensive and very candid comments about the serious achievement gap situation in the state.
I’ll be spending some time in this report, but I think many at the press conference were particularly struck by results of a new analysis of course grade awards versus performance on Kentucky’s various mathematics assessments. So, I am going to delve into that new research now.
To put it mildly, this new research was a major eye-opener. Aside from showing some very disturbing trends regarding differential course grading by race, the data undermines a long-held notion that course grades are likely to be the best predictor of college performance.
Let’s look at two of the eye-watering graphs in the new report.
The graph in Figure 1 is based on a study of Grade 8 math course letter grades and KPREP math scores from 2012 to 2016, and is found on Page 6 in the report. It shows some pretty disappointing things are happening in Kentucky’s public school system.
Looking vertically up from the “A” grade point on the right side of the horizontal axis, we see an example of why the report says:
“For African American students whose average letter grade in their middle school math courses was an A, the chance of scoring proficient on state math tests was 25 percentage points lower than that of white students who also earned an A average.”
Clearly, less is being demanded of Kentucky’s blacks to earn an “A” grade in math class. Across Kentucky, teachers are setting a lower standard for these children of color to earn an “A.” Examination of the graph for other letter grades shows blacks are held to lower standards for every other grade from “B” even down to a “D” score, though the amount of performance difference for whites versus blacks does decline a bit as we move down the grading scale.
A new report from ProPublica provides dramatic evidence about a real threat to student success when only local school districts are allowed to authorize charter schools.
ProPublica’s article points out that in some areas of the country local districts are authorizing charter schools so the district can hide poor student performance and make its regular schools look better. The district authorizers are not holding the charters accountable. They are manipulating the process to make their regular schools look better.
ProPublica’s article includes a map that provides an additional warning for Kentucky. The map identifies school districts with more problematic alternative schools.
Here is an enhanced blowup of the Kentucky section of the map.
Notice that school district enrollment is identified by the size of the circle. The degree to which each district’s alternate schools appear problematic is identified by the shade of pink inside the circle, with darker shading indicating more issues of concern.
Unlike the vast majority of states, especially those east of the Mississippi River, Kentucky is covered border to border in these pink “measles.” Furthermore, while you need to look closely since most Kentucky districts are small, many of the state’s circles are in darker shades of pink, indicating ProPublica has a whole lot of concerns about many alternative schools here.
Keep in mind that Kentucky currently has no charter schools, so all of the high concern alternative programs in the Bluegrass State are being run directly by the school districts. This shows that such abuses are not unique to charter school states or charter schools, either. These problems are a feature of ineffective, if not outright inappropriate, motivations on the part of local public school districts.
ProPublica says this problem manifests itself in places like Florida’s Sunshine High School in the Orlando area. I confirmed with the Florida Department of Education that Sunshine High is indeed a district authorized charter school. In fact, virtually all of Florida’s charters are district authorized. So, while Florida has plenty of “measles” on the ProPublica map, this is actually a traditional school district problem because the authorizer of a charter school is supposed to be the first line of accountability for a charter school. Per ProPublica, that isn’t happening with district authorized charters in Florida.
By the way, if a Kentucky district brought in a separate ‘hidden dropouts’ charter school, that charter school’s performance would be separately reported, making statistics for the district’s regular schools look better, just like is happening in Florida. We don’t want that temptation here.
So, here are some messages for Kentucky legislators.
- Our pending charter school legislation needs to insure districts can’t engage in such abuses with any charters established here.
- It clearly would be much better for Kentucky to allow independent charter school authorizers who face no temptations to hide bad performance for school districts.
If Kentucky only allows local school districts to authorize charter schools, those ProPublica map measles – already far too numerous – are likely to expand even more in the Bluegrass State.
And, Kentucky’s kids will pay the price.
(Blog updated with minor wording changes and the blow up map, 21 Feb 17 at 7:38 pm)