Kentucky has a major problem with white minus black achievement gaps and it is especially apparent in the state’s results over time from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Grade 8 Reading Assessment.
The NAEP didn’t start to collect state level eighth grade reading data until 1998, but by now we still have a rather long trend line to examine.
And, the gap trend isn’t good.
The figure below shows the percentages of Kentucky’s white and black students that scored at or above the performance level NAEP defines as Proficient for eighth grade reading.
Below the white and black score lines is a table that shows the gap in the proficiency rates for each year. The asterisk next to the 2007 figure in the table shows that this particular gap is statistically significantly different from the 2015 gap.
For example, in 2007 Kentucky’s white eighth grade students scored only 30 percent proficient for reading following a decay in their performance that began after 2003.
In 2007 only 14 percent of Kentucky’s blacks scored proficient or more for eighth grade reading.
However, when we consider the gaps, due to the rather pronounced white reading drop in proficiency in 2007, the gap that year was the lowest ever posted. As a consequence the 2007 gap is statistically significantly lower than the gap of 24 points for 2015. Actually, due to statistical sampling errors in the NAEP, none of the gaps for any other year shown in the graphic’s table are notably different from the 2015 gap.
So, as far as the NAEP can tell us, essentially the white minus black eighth grade reading gap in Kentucky is the same as it was in 1998. And, that gap is far too large.
We can see something else that is very disturbing in this graphic. Essentially, black reading proficiency in Kentucky has not changed notably since 2002. In fact, the 2015 black proficiency rate isn’t statistically significantly different from any previous score all the way back to 1998.
To be very clear: Kentucky’s eighth grade blacks are not making reading progress according to the NAEP – NONE!
This isn’t news to us at the Bluegrass Institute. Since we became the first Bluegrass State organization to start pushing charter schools and other school choice options 14 years ago, blacks in our state have not fared well, and that is particularly true for the massively important area of reading.
Clearly, it is past time for Kentucky to move beyond a blind faith that somehow – despite 25 years of failing to do so – the state’s traditional school system will fix this problem on its own. An education lesson now lasting a quarter of a century, one confirmed by the NAEP, says this problem isn’t going to be fixed without some new and different approaches for Kentucky. Since charter schools are showing particular positive impacts for black students, charters are clearly an education tool the Bluegrass State should offer its students.