The Bluegrass Institute released “Blacks Continue Falling Through Gaps: The 2016 Update” on Monday. Here’s the video of the press conference.
Bluegrass Institute report raises strong concerns about continued achievement gaps and graduation failures in Jefferson County
(LOUISVILLE, Ky.) – Legislators and educators made a promise more than a quarter-century ago when the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) was passed: In return for vastly increased education spending, the Bluegrass State was going to do a much better job of educating its students – especially the commonwealth’s racial minorities.
However, a new Bluegrass Institute report, “Blacks Continue Falling Through Gaps in Louisville’s Schools: The 2016 Update,” is available at www.bipps.org and provides highly unsettling evidence that the promise has not been kept.
“This is one of the most disturbing reports on Kentucky’s educational performance that the Bluegrass Institute has ever released,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said at a news conference today in front of the Jefferson County Public Schools’ central offices at the VanHoose Education Center, 3332 Newburg Road.
Report author and Bluegrass Institute staff education analyst Richard Innes in the 2016 update finds notable declines in scores for Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) blacks on both eighth-grade EXPLORE and the 10th-grade PLAN. White-minus-black achievement gaps widened in all subject areas between the 2011-12 and 2014-15 school years and the percentages of blacks meeting EXPLORE’s readiness benchmark scores are lower now, as well. PLAN results are nearly as dismal.
While small improvements have occurred in some areas of the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP) math testing, the new report finds 2015 white-minus-black math-achievement gaps exceed 10 percentage points in 116 out of total of 134 JCPS schools that reported full data. Worst of all, data released by the Kentucky Department of Education show that the academic-achievement gaps at Dunn Elementary and Noe Middle schools exceed an astonishing 50 percentage points.
There also is a geographic pattern to JCPS’ academic-achievement gap with the largest disparity in math found in the more-affluent sections on Louisville’s East Side.
The report also answers another mystery: why a number of Louisville high schools officially report notably higher graduation rates for blacks instead of whites. Using a new analysis technique developed by Innes, it appears the reason for this unexpected reverse achievement gap in graduation rates is due to an extreme and unbalanced amount of social promotion to a high-school diploma in Louisville’s schools.
Innes finds a 20-point difference in the reported high school graduation rates for whites and the number of white ninth-grade students who graduate four years later ready for either college or a career. For blacks, however, the differential is an astonishingly high 42.2 points – indicating many black high-school graduates in Jefferson County are getting hollow pieces of paper.
“Burdened taxpayers and concerned parents want to know what the district’s plan is for closing these unacceptable gaps and ensuring that the promise of KERA is kept: that all students, no matter the color of their skin, socioeconomic status or zip code, can achieve and succeed at the highest levels,” Waters said. “Plus, it’s not unreasonable to expect a school district with a $1.4 billion budget to come up with some ideas other than simply throwing more of taxpayers’ hard-earned money at the problem.”
The Bluegrass Institute is Kentucky’s first and only free-market think tank and is dedicated to advancing sound public-policy solutions based on credible data and its principles of individual liberty, economic prosperity and limited – and transparent – government. For interview information, please contact report author Richard Innes at 859-466-8198 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Check out these comments about “school choice” availability in the Jefferson County Public School District (JCPS):
“The current choice system is far from perfect. Many families don’t get their first choice, and about 20% don’t get either first or second choice. Family logistics and the student assignment plan mean that many families must choose based on factors unrelated to the best academic fit for their child (Emphasis Added). And perhaps most frustrating, communication from the District about choices, application processes and decision criteria is confusing – sometimes almost impenetrable. To note that choice is offered is not to express satisfaction with how school selection works today for most families.”
And, no, BIPPS didn’t write this. It is found in an article titled “Thoughts on Charter Schools” from JCPS board chair David Jones.
One of the big arguments being raised against charter schools by the education bureaucracy that is the Jefferson County Public School System is that they already offer choice. But, it looks like even the JCPS board president understands school choice in Jefferson County really isn’t much choice at all.
There are more interesting revelations in Mr. Jones’ article, but I am going to hold further comments until after BIPPS releases our new report on the black students’ achievement gap mess in the JCPS on Monday.
By the way, WLKY in Louisville is running an extensive review of charter schools both on air and online. The first installment is online now, and coverage will continue today at 5 pm when Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters is expected to appear.
A very strange bill is actually working its way through the legislature. It has already cleared the Kentucky House and currently is in the Kentucky Senate’s Education Committee.
House Bill 92 could allow a waiver or modification of the statewide assessment system for schools participating in a district of innovation plan. The bill would also allow a district of innovation to use student assessments other than those required by the state board.
Now, here is the major puzzle. When Common Core was being debated, we were told our state needed common standards with other states so we could compare our assessment scores to scores from those other states. It didn’t work out that way, of course. It turns out that results from different tests are just plain different. Even though the same standards underlie almost all state assessments today, experts tell us Kentucky still cannot compare our KPREP scores to scores from any other state because KPREP is unique to Kentucky. No other state uses it.
Bottom line: establishing tests that truly are comparable is a really difficult challenge. Most often, even tests built around the same standards just are not the same.
So, here is my concern. If a District of Innovation uses some other test besides the state standard, will there be any valid comparison to what the rest of Kentucky is doing?
If Districts of Innovation go their own way on testing, what most likely will happen is we will lose all ability to fairly evaluate what is going on in those districts. Those districts could be failing miserably for their students and we would not be able to show that.
If any Kentucky district wants to use additional assessments, they can do that right now. Perhaps if a District of Innovation used both the new test and the state’s standard test for several years, comparability could be established. But, allowing a district to abruptly resign from the state’s assessment program isn’t technically defensible and in fact is just flat unacceptable. Furthermore, those who could suffer the most could be the children in those districts experimenting under the Districts of Innovation plan. Essentially, the state would lose all objective control over what was happening.
I have one more concern, to raise an issue that Democrats are using to challenge the current Senate Bill 1. The federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) was only recently enacted. The ESSA certainly does discuss state testing programs. However, the ESSA’s enabling regulations won’t be out for another year. Could adoption of HB-92 at this time be premature and especially unwise? We might wind up with a number of districts using a test for a year or two and then having to drop those tests, losing a lot of important trend data in the process.
To be very clear, I have reservations about Kentucky’s KPREP state assessments, and looking for alternatives is entirely reasonable. But, I am completely opposed to suddenly trashing trend lines, too. A far better way to transition to a new test, if a District of Innovation wants that, is to run a sample program with both tests for several years to see how the two tests compare. Don’t abandon the existing state test until a good trend line is available. That is the scientific way to do this, but – more importantly – it’s the right way to do this to protect students.
The impact of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s perfection of the art of dissent in opinions related to cases in which he deemed that a majority of his fellow justices ignored – or downright denigrated – both the words of our Constitution and intents of its founders likely will reverberate throughout America’s remaining history and bring positive future change impossible to presently envision.
The reason is two-fold.
First, it takes genuine courage to dissent – especially in the way, with the types of cases and in the exclusive circles in which Scalia spoke, wrote and moved.
It takes more mettle to dissent than acquiesce to the ignorance – or worse, the tyranny – of the majority.
When it came, for example, to Scalia’s approach of interpreting the Constitution in terms of its original intent, the great justice once bemoaned: “This is such a minority position in modern academia and in modern legal circles that on occasion I’m asked … a question from the back of the room – ‘Justice Scalia, when did you first become an originalist?’ – as though it is some kind of weird affliction that seizes some people – ‘When did you first start eating human flesh?’”
Second, most people recognize and admire such courage – even when they themselves are unwilling to rise to such conviction.
What if, for example, every politician singing the praises of this giant of jurisprudence at the moment of his recent passing dedicated themselves to creating platforms and casting votes based on what’s constitutional and right rather than on the basis of some guilt trip laid on them by a hounding majority that increasingly seeks government handouts instead of real opportunities to better themselves?
It takes political courage for Gov. Matt Bevin and his administration to shutter a duplicative, wasteful and failed state operated health-insurance exchange while offering sustainable change for a bloated Medicaid program in the face of cynical opportunists.
Bevin also deemed it “unconstitutional” and even “illegal” for a government’s executive branch to bypass elected legislators – as former Gov. Steve Beshear frequently did – to enact programs requiring expenditures of tax dollars.
Senate President Robert Stivers, R-Manchester, offered a Scalia-like response by rightly declaring that it’s the legislature that will decide what happens with Kentucky’s Medicaid program, which swelled from around 800,000 enrollees to 1.2 million participants during Beshear’s administration.
Such fortitude isn’t popular in this day of President Barack Obama’s pen and phone, when the constitutionally illiterate majority view government and tax dollars of we the producers as their own personal ATMs rather than what our Founders intended – protectors of our liberty and our ability to prosper.
Constitutionally conservative Kentuckians who in the past have felt maligned by party or the political process and may despair as to whether their principled stands for restrained and constitutional government should celebrate the power of current dissent to bring future change to a country or even a commonwealth: be heartened by past and present history.
Central Kentucky native and Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan – the lone dissenter in Plessy v. Ferguson, in which the high court upheld a policy of separate-but-equal racial segregation – must have felt the despair that seizes voices of dissent even as it expounded what was most definitely a minority opinion of the culture, society and even law of the day: “Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.”
That was 1896.
Less than 60 years later, Harlan’s dissenting opinion resulted in the Supreme Court unanimously overturning its own Plessy decision and deeming separate-but-equal policies forever unconstitutional in the famous Brown v. Board of Education case.
Planting the seeds of liberty and change can be a lonely, frustrating experience. But someday there will be a Harlan-like – and Scalia-like – harvest for today’s honorable dissenters.
Education Week reports that a new study from the Center for Education Policy Research at Harvard University shows Common Core State Standards are definitely driving changes in the way teachers teach, but results for students remain “elusive.” In other words, there isn’t evidence so far that all these classroom changes make a difference for students.