Bluegrass Institute staff education analyst Richard Innes will be live talking about the new ACT scores with Mandy Connell tonight on her 6 pm (Eastern Time) show on WHAS NewsRadio 840 AM. If you live outside the WHAS broadcast area, you can listen in on the web here.
The new Profile Report about Kentucky’s 2015 high School Graduates from the ACT, Inc. along with earlier reports from 2014 and 2013 provide data to create a series of graphs that explore the achievement gaps between Kentucky’s whites and blacks. These cover a period where the results have been consistently reported as an average of scores for students who took the ACT in the standard time allowed plus scores for students who got extra time but still could have scores reported to colleges.
Here is how this looks (Note: the first five graphs are for all students, public, private and home school combined. The last graph looks at public school only data).
In ACT English, the white minus black score gap was slightly reduced between 2013 and 2014, but the new results show all that improvement and more was lost and the gap is now the largest ever for the past three years. Also, white scores have increased more than those for blacks. By the way, that 2015 score for blacks of 15.5 is associated with a college readiness rate for English of only 32 percent.
Click the “Read more” link to see the rest of the graphs.
Now that I have explained why you have to break the ACT data out by race before you start ranking against other states, let’s look at how Kentucky’s white high school graduates of 2015 (includes all school types: public, private and home school combined) stack up against whites in other states that tested all their 2015 grads with the ACT. This graph shows the story.
Tied for bottom of the heap! That isn’t what we want!
Note that a number of Southern states including Louisiana, Tennessee, Mississippi (Yikes!) and North Carolina all bested us.
So, while Kentucky made a little progress, other states still scored better for the racial group that makes up the vast majority of all Kentucky 2015 high school graduates (73 percent according to the ACT).
The scores and remarks above are based on data from Table 5 in each state’s ACT Profile Summary Report for the Graduating Class of 2015. Get those here.
But, you have to look at the data carefully to see that
The new ACT scores are out, and the picture for Kentucky isn’t so great. Overall, the state’s ACT Composite Score did go up 0.1 point for all students across the state’s public, private and home school sectors, but other states are doing better.
One incredible example of a state doing better is Charter-School-Rich Louisiana.
You might want to say, “Hey, how can you say that! Isn’t Kentucky’s 2015 ACT Composite Score average of 20.0 notably better than Louisiana’s 19.4? It is true that when we only consider overall scores, it looks like Kentucky did better than Louisiana, but the overall average scores are hiding something important. Let me explain.
You see, when it comes to comparing state education systems, you cannot accurately find the winners if you only look at overall average scores. If you only look at the overall average scores, you will probably fall into a statistics trap known as Simpson’s Paradox. Let’s expand the Kentucky and Louisiana ACT results for 2015 to see how real data explains Simpson’s.
The top row in the table body shows the overall average scores for “All Students,” which includes all 2015 graduates of each state’s public, private and home school programs combined. Kentucky indeed notably outscores Louisiana for the All Student area.
But, take a look at what happens when we break the data out by race. As shown by the table cells highlighted in yellow, Louisiana outscores Kentucky for every separate racial group the ACT reports except for the very small numbers of Native Hawaiians/Other Pacific Islanders found in each state.
Now who looks like the education winner? Obviously, it is Louisiana.
The only reason Kentucky looks like a winner when we only look at the overall average score for “All Students” is because Kentucky has a lot more white students than Louisiana. Thanks to the grim racial achievement gaps, only examining overall scores makes Kentucky look better only because the Bluegrass State has a lot more white students even though Kentucky’s whites score notably lower than those in Louisiana.
In fact, if the student racial mix in Louisiana had the same proportions found in Kentucky, I calculate that Louisiana’s average ACT Composite Score would be 20.4, notably higher than Kentucky’s.
The clearly better performance in Louisiana for virtually all racial groups has important messages for Kentucky regarding charter schools. Keep in mind that Louisiana had to essentially rebuild much of the Southern half of the state’s school system after Hurricane Katrina hit a decade ago. Louisiana chose to do that with a large number of charter schools, and the impact of that decision for school choice is clearly bearing fruit.
So, why does Kentucky continue to fight the growing evidence? School choice does do a better job for students, something we badly need here. The argument for choice just keeps growing, and even the ACT results add support, provided you remember the cardinal rule – never rank state education systems based only on overall average scores. You have to dig deeper to overcome the seriously different racial mixes that are now found in different states across the nation. Otherwise, you run the real risk of becoming the next person to fall prey to Simpson’s Paradox.
We’ve heard a lot of “stuff” about Kentucky’s supposedly wonderful college readiness rates over the past few years since Common Core came along.
For example, last year the Kentucky statewide school report card (access from here) claimed the overall College and/or Career readiness rate was 62.5 percent, a figure Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday has been touting at every possible occasion. More relevant to our discussion today, that same report shows for the sub-area of college readiness only, 24,322 students out of 43,722 students, or 55.6 percent of the Kentucky public high school class of 2014, were college ready.
However, one of the most useful measures of college readiness just released its annual report for Kentucky’s high school graduates of 2015, and the “real stuff” shows something very different.
The ACT, Inc.’s “ACT Profile Report, State, Graduating Class 2015, Kentucky” report contains information for all Kentucky graduates from public, private and homeschool sources. However, public school students are the dominant group in this mix, so the data released by the ACT pretty closely reflects what is happening in the public schools in Kentucky (I’ll have more detailed information about Kentucky’s public schools by themselves when I get a chance to review a separate data release due later today from the Kentucky Department of Education).
For sure, what the ACT data tells us isn’t so rosy.
This graph, taken from ACT’s new report for Kentucky, tells the rather grim story.
Overall, ACT test results show only 21 percent of all Kentucky’s graduates, public, private and home school combined, were fully prepared for a liberal arts college education with adequate skills in English, math, reading and science.
Just 21 percent!
Based on past history, this college-ready number would be even lower if only the public school graduates were considered.
The situation looks far grimmer when we review how Kentucky’s racial minorities fared.
• Only one in 20 black students – just five percent – were fully ready for college. That gruesome figure is unchanged from last year.
• A not much higher percentage of Hispanics, just 14 percent, were prepared, as well.
Overall, these data points just don’t mesh with claims from the Kentucky Department of Education that more than half our kids are being prepared for college. What kind of college are they being prepared for? Certainly not the kind the ACT, Inc. has in mind.
This unhappy news will be no surprise to many businessmen in this state. A recent news report at Cincinnati.com says business leaders from the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce are really upset about the poor quality of recent graduates from Kentucky’s Community and Technical College System (KCTCS) – graduates who just were not ready for careers. Well, the ACT data points to the fact that this lack of readiness probably starts well before our high school graduates enter a KCTCS campus, or even graduate from high school.
One more point to consider: The ACT National Profile Report shows that across the nation 28 percent of all high school graduates in 2015 were fully college ready across the four subjects ACT tests. That is obviously higher than the 21 percent rate Kentucky posted. The national readiness rates for blacks and Hispanics were both a point higher than in Kentucky, as well, though it is clear the Bluegrass State is far from the only place in this country that is under-serving our minority students.
So – Frankfort, we have a problem. Even when we include our home school and private school students in the data, Kentucky’s K to 12 education system isn’t delivering nearly well enough for our state – not for our students, and not for our economy’s needs, either. Let’s stop pushing fantasy numbers and let’s start working to fix our obvious problems.
Stay tuned, because there is a lot more to talk about in the new ACT reports, and the state’s report on the public school only results is still pending, as well.
The 47 Annual Phi Delta Kappan/Gallup poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools is out, and it shows very low parent support for Common Core State Standards exists across the country.
The report specifically states:
“A majority of public school parents oppose having teachers in their community use the Common Core State Standards to guide what they teach.”
In terms of numbers, only 25 percent of public school parents say they favor having the teachers in their local school use Common Core. Across all respondents in the nation, the opinion was very similar, with only 24 percent now reporting support for Common Core in the schools.
And, unlike in past years, this isn’t an uniformed sample of parents. The PDK/Gallup also asked how much the respondents know about Common Core. Among public school parents, 72 percent claimed to know either a fair amount or a great deal about Common Core.
The PDK/Gallup poll also asked the public about attitudes towards school choice.
A solid 64 percent of all people surveyed and a nearly identical 63 percent of parents like charter schools.
Fairly similar numbers, 64 percent overall and 67 percent of parents, favor allowing parents to choose where in the community they send their child even for traditionally organized public school systems. Assignment by address is no longer in favor.
Furthermore, a solid 61 percent of the parents said they have enough information about the public schools in their local area to make a good choice about where to send their child to school. Only one parent in three said they would need more information, right now, before making such a decision.
There you have it. Even a poll run by the teacher-friendly Phi Delta Kappan now shows significant support for charter schools.
So, why is Kentucky one of the few states left in the nation without them?