It is a serious question: Does Common Core hurt minority students the most?
Education Week just published a major article about the results of Common Core testing in all the states 2015.
Except: They didn’t post Kentucky’s 2015 results even though the scores were publicly released over six weeks ago on October 1, 2015.
UPDATE NOVEMBER 18, 2015
I got a note from Andrew Ujifusa at Education Week that reconfirmed my already strong impression of the quality of reporting at that news organization. He admitted the omission of Kentucky’s 2015 scores was his mistake due to an update apparently not taking in their editorial software. He corrected the omission and says the 2015 scores do indeed look flat to him, as well.
Bluegrass Beacon: Bethlehem’s star passed through Frankfort before settling over Louisville on Election Night
As part of his embarrassing Election-Night meltdown that’s garnering national attention, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, encouraged Democrats to find a Republican to thump over the head with a Bible the next morning.
After admitting he didn’t know whether Jesus was a Democrat or Republican, Stumbo astutely observed “Mary did not ride an elephant into Bethlehem that night” before calling on fellow partisans at the Frankfort Convention Center to “get up with me in the morning” and “go to the church and challenge those people about values and morals and talk about the things that this party was built upon.”
It was desperate and very different from what happened – and didn’t happen – in Louisville where Gov.-elect Matt Bevin called on supporters to “take the high road” and “reach out to somebody you know was on the other side of this particular battle, this particular political equation.”
The difference might offer clues about why Bevin crushed Stumbo’s Democratic Party, winning 106 of 120 counties with an 85,000-vote margin.
It also indicates why the GOP is experiencing the kind of momentum for the 2016 campaign for House seats that the Kansas City Royals experienced beginning about the seventh inning of every World Series game – no matter how far behind they were.
Still, I find common ground with Stumbo on a couple of statements.
First, he said “there’s a dawn tomorrow that’s going to be brighter and better and bigger and more hopeful than maybe anything we could” before garbling the rest of his sentence.
I agree with the understandable part.
It’s as if Kentuckians are stirring out of a long slumber and beginning to regain the realization that they – not government, politicians, bureaucrats or lawyers – are constitutionally empowered and really can determine their own destinies.
I saw that in Shelbyville right before the election, where citizens filled their city council’s meeting room to protest a proposed 3 percent restaurant tax.
Restaurant owners along with other merchants and citizen-taxpayers of all political stripes came together and caused the proposed tax – scheduled for a final reading that night – to disintegrate right in front of us.
Like the mountains in Stumbo’s eastern Kentucky enclave, it’s a beautiful site to witness people using their power – especially when doing so fully annoys arrogant politicians and unelected bureaucrats trying to extract yet more money from the same hardworking taxpayers they’re called to serve rather than exploit.
The council heard from people who woke up and said: “It’s a new day. We’re taxed enough already; besides, we don’t even know what the revenue from this tax will be used for. All we know is that it will be some ‘tourism-related’ project.”
City council member Bobby Adriot had the audacity to claim that half the revenue raised would “go to the council and half would be tourism’s money,” referring to a likely illegal deal made by the council to split the monies in half with the local tourism commission.
State law requires all restaurant-tax revenue be used only for tourism-related projects.
“It’s your money,” the council member said at one point to the tourism-commission’s representative.
Uh. No sir, it’s not. It’s not her money, and it’s certainly not some unelected tourism-bureaucrat’s money.
It’s the people’s money, and you have no right to take it away from them – especially when no one even knows how it will be spent.
Second, Bevin’s political comeback is living proof of the absolute shininess of another Stumbo gem: “It’s not how many times you get knocked down in a ballgame; it’s how fast you get up.”
Chances are, after baptizing his concession sermon in sour-grapes juice, the Speaker may get a chance to test that advice himself following next year’s election.
One of the major limitations with the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) is the sampling error in all the scores. These errors can become quite large when we examine performance for smaller student groups such as black students in charter schools versus blacks in non-charters in the same school jurisdiction.
But, if enough students of color are present, and if their scores are really notably different, we can tell that from the NAEP. And, Atlanta’s 2015 NAEP scores show that city’s charter schools are outperforming traditional schools for black students, in most cases by amounts that are far more than merely statistically significant.
While it takes a fairly large score difference before we can declare Atlanta’s charters are outperforming the city’s traditional public schools, the NAEP Data Explorer’s statistical significance test tools show the scores are statistically significantly different for everything NAEP tested in 2015 in the city except Grade 4 Math. My manual calculation using the standard errors published for the Grade 4 Math scores indicate the actual score difference missed being statistically significant by about half a point. However, the very large score differences for the other subjects are not just statistically significantly different, they are simply very significant.
Atlanta’s charter school performance for NAEP Grade 4 Reading and both subjects in Grade 8 are impressive. Wouldn’t it be nice for Kentucky to join 43 other states that now have charter schools so we could import such good-performing educational systems into places like Louisville?
With a new governor, more evidence of problems in Louisville from the NAEP, and EXPLORE, and a crying need for school choice in Kentucky, it’s time to move ahead for children. It’s time for Kentucky to enact school choice legislation so that children, not adults in the school system, will become the real focus of our school system.
(Updated table on October 31, 2016. NAEP apparently fixed the earlier problem with the sampling error information for Grade 4 math and the statistical tool in the NAEP Data Explorer now provides a valid test)
During this past Monday’s meeting of the Kentucky Legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education there was interest in the state’s minority achievement gap problems. I decided to provide a key legislator with some information that I realized our blog readers deserved to see, as well.
So, here are two tables I put together showing the percentages of whites and African-Americans in Kentucky meeting Benchmark Scores for readiness from the EXPLORE (Grade 8) and PLAN (Grade 10) tests given to all the state’s students. I also show the resulting achievement gaps and the change in those gaps between 2011-12 and 2014-15.
Notice that I don’t address a combined “Gap Group” set of data as the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) reports those statistics. This is because the KDE’s “Gap Group” calculation hides a lot of important problems with its averaging approach.
For the most part, the “Gap Group” calculation becomes just a poor white student measure. To really see what is happening, we must dig deeper.
Some observations from the tables
- As you can see in the red-shaded areas at the bottom of each of the tables, the white minus African-American Benchmark Score achievement gaps have grown in every subject area for both EXPLORE and PLAN between 2011-12 (the first year the KDE provided disaggregated data from these assessments) and the most recent 2014-15 term results. Put another way, the first four years of Common Core testing in Kentucky have seen the gaps grow worse across the board on these true college readiness tests from the ACT, Inc.
- African-American Benchmark Scores for EXPLORE fell in English, math and reading on EXPLORE between 2011-12 and 2014-15 and remained flat at a dismally low 4.7 percent for science. For our eighth grade African-American students, at least, Common Core has yet to show benefits.
- White EXPLORE reading Benchmark Performance is also lower in 2014-15 than back in 2011-12.
- White PLAN English fell between 2011-12 and 2014-15 and white reading remained flat over the same period.
- African-American PLAN English and reading performances are also lower in the most recent year compared to the first year listed.
- African-American PLAN science is no better in 2014-15 than it was two years prior in 2012-13. Furthermore, the single-digit African-American science Benchmark rate is an outrage considering it is now fully a quarter of a century after KERA promised to fix this problem.
- While there has been slight improvement in African-American PLAN math, the current percentage of students meeting the Benchmark Score essentially is just as outrageous as the science situation.
Before closing, I should mention that the very poor performance for Kentucky’s African-Americans on EXPLORE and PLAN is not surprising. There have been many Common Core stimulated curriculum shifts in the past few years in Kentucky to more performance-based, student-centered educational approaches. Unfortunately, there is a good body of research stretching back to the “Project Follow-Through” studies of the Lyndon Johnson era that shows these “teacher as a guide on the side” approaches are far less effective for student groups that traditionally face more challenges in school. These more-challenging-to-teach students benefit more when the teacher employs direct instructional approaches as a “sage on the stage.” So long as Kentucky continues to favor “guide on the side” classroom approaches, I suspect that progress for minority students will continue to be largely lack-luster.
In case you missed it, the Courier-Journal recently published my Op-Ed about “State school board needs open meetings lesson” regarding an on-going problem with the Kentucky Board of Education choosing to ignore an official Open Meetings Decision from the Kentucky Attorney General. That official decision says a state school board committee formed to help find an executive search firm to help locate a new commissioner of education was subject to Kentucky’s Open Meetings Laws but didn’t follow them. As a consequence, most people in Kentucky – media included – were left in the dark about this committee’s activities until after all the decisions had been made. This isn’t the way state agencies are required to operate.
But, the perhaps more serious on-going problem is the Kentucky Board of Education now seems to be acting as though their failure to follow the law does not matter. The board has yet to acknowledge the attorney general’s decision and take meaningful action to insure all board members are aware of their responsibilities under the Open Meetings statutes.
Even worse, the state board isn’t the only education agency in the state to violate the Open Meetings Laws in the current calendar year. In fact, as of November 11, 2015, the attorney general’s web site shows that five of the 15 Open Meetings violations have been committed by education entities: three by local school boards and one by a School Based Decision Making Council in addition to the state board’s own violation (See 15OMD090, 15OMD096, 15OMD113 and 15OMD114 here).
So, it looks like what increasingly is appearing as the state’ board’s arrogance regarding Kentucky’s Open Meetings Laws may now extend to a failure of the state board to take a leadership position to insure that lower-level state education agencies also are aware of, and follow, state statutes.
When the Bluegrass Institute filed our original complaint in this matter with the state board, we asked the board to conduct a training session for its members during a regularly scheduled and webcast meeting. That way, other lower-level education agency members could access the training as well.
So far, our reasonable and helpful suggestion seems to be falling on deaf ears, unfortunately. Meanwhile, a badly needed Open Meetings Law lesson is still going untaught.