WDRB reports that two days ago the NAACP put the Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS) on the hot seat for continuing minority achievement gaps and small, but excessively slow progress in general.
One of the speakers at the meeting, Kathryn Wallace said, “Yes, there is progress. It’s just not coming rapidly enough,” but it actually is not even fair to say that about JCPS in all cases.
As we pointed out in our recently released report, “Blacks Continue Falling Through Gaps in Louisville’s Schools, The 2016 Update,” some of Kentucky’s college readiness test results, such as the EXPLORE test results summarized in the table below, show JCPS performance for black students actually has declined over the past four years. As you can see in the far right column of the table, the percentage of black students meeting the EXPLORE Readiness Benchmark Scores declined for all four subjects tested. Even white scores sank in the critical subjects of math and reading.
Our report even came up at the meeting, as discussed near the end of WDRB’s coverage. WDRB’s text web article says:
“People also had questions about a recent study from the Bluegrass Institute, which is a conservative think tank.
It said African-American students continue to fall behind.”
Attempting to defuse that at the NAACP event, JCPS superintendent Donna Hargens claimed, “that report only showed part of the story.”
But, Hargens didn’t say what parts of the story we missed, so let’s talk about that. The report did cover both EXPLORE and PLAN tests trends over time and also investigates the evidence that JCPS diploma awards are becoming inflated with “hollow diplomas” where students are not ready for either college or a career. The report also showed that the inflation in hollow diploma awards is much worse for black students, raising serious credibility problems for anyone citing such graduation rates as evidence of progress.
That mostly leaves one area our report didn’t fully cover: the trend over time for achievement gaps on Kentucky’s KPREP testing. We omitted that KPREP analysis for a reason: our research indicates that KPREP scores are becoming inflated (read about that here and in our four-part series here, here, here and here).
Never-the-less, since JCPS brought up this subject right after our report was released, we took a more extensive look at KPREP gap evidence over time. Very simply, the growth in the white minus black gaps in JCPS even shows up in much of the KPREP results, too, despite the inflation over time that is present in the JCPS’ KPREP scores.
So, that pretty much covers the things we can look at regarding achievement gaps in JCPS. Has there been a little progress? That seems to be a mixed bag, at best, with most progress coming from KPREP testing that is clearly starting to inflate results.
When we look at other testing like EXPLORE and PLAN, things seem to mostly be getting worse.
And, don’t try to fool us about improvement in graduation rates or college and/or career ready rates. Our report provides solid evidence that there is good reason to be very wary of those statistics both in JCPS and statewide, as well.