The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank, joins with hundreds of groups nationwide to celebrate the fifth annual National School Choice Week (Jan. 24-30). Since its beginning more than 12 years ago, the Bluegrass Institute has been the leading voice to give Kentucky parents effective alternatives to ensure that each child receives a quality education. As part of National School Choice Week, the Bluegrass Institute will publish a series of blogs offering information on school choice. This series will be one of 16,000 events nationwide taking place as part of this year’s National School Choice Week.
Yesterday we looked at some very compelling evidence from the ACT, Inc.’s EXPLORE readiness test that shows Kentucky needs to get on board with the vast majority of the rest of the states where school choice options like charter schools, vouchers and tax credit programs allow disadvantaged students who are not thriving in the traditional public school to seek other options.
Sadly, unlike in those other states, disadvantaged students in Kentucky are generally out of luck if the state’s traditional schools don’t work for them.
Today we add to the compelling EXPLORE test evidence with more information from the ACT’s PLAN testing for Kentucky’s tenth grade students.
The table below contains the tremendously disappointing message about what has happened to Kentucky’s largest racial minority group when they take PLAN in the state’s high schools. Again, we look at the scores from 2011-12, the first year PLAN scores were broken out by race, and compare that to the latest 2014-15 data.
Similar to the program with EXPLORE, the PLAN test is given to all Kentucky tenth graders. PLAN’s Benchmark Scores are set to show students are on track to be ready for college upon high school graduation.
Here are details about what the table shows.
The section on the left highlighted in yellow shows the percentages of white and black students in Kentucky who met the PLAN Benchmark Scores in 2011-12 and in 2014-15. This data comes directly from Kentucky School Report Cards for the state for these two years.
For example, in the 2011-12 term, 66.6 percent of the state’s whites met the PLAN Benchmark in English, but only 39.7 percent of the blacks did. In the 2014-15 term, 66.5 percent of Kentucky’s white eighth grade students met the English Benchmark, but only 36.9 percent of the blacks did.
Looking at the two columns on the far right of the table, where the headings are shaded blue, we see that the percentage of whites meeting the English Benchmark Scores sagged very slightly by 0.1 point but blacks saw a serious decay in their performance of 2.8 points. Because of these decays, I show both of the changes in bold yellow text with a bright red background. Notice that both races saw score declines in reading, as well. There was a notable increase in math for both races, but the improvement in science was pretty small over the three years considered, and that is a real problem given that the percentages of both races meeting the Benchmark for science is very low, in fact disastrously low for blacks.
Now, look at the middle of the table, where the headings are shaded in pink. This area shows the white minus black differences in the percentages meeting the benchmarks for 2011-12 and 2014-15. The third column in this section, which is presented throughout with yellow text on a red background, shows that the white minus black achievement gaps grew in all four subjects tested by PLAN between those two years.
To sum up, both Kentucky’s EXPLORE and PLAN results in the Common Core era show the state’s blacks in particular have been very poorly served in the traditional public school system.
Clearly, we need to do a better job for our students, and especially so for our state’s most significant minority racial group. Charter schools and other school choice options are showing particularly good results for blacks, and Kentucky’s EXPLORE and PLAN results make it clear it is time for the Bluegrass State to finally embrace this better education option.