Kentucky’s Real Progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP)

On Friday, March 3, 2016 the Kentucky House made history when it voted for the first time in favor of a charter school bill and sent it on for Kentucky Senate approval.

The vote was contentious.

Debates in the morning meeting of the House Education Committee and during the eventual deliberation and adoption of the bill by the full Kentucky House sometimes were bitter – even tear filled. And, there were lots of inaccurate statements along the way.

One entirely too prevalent assertion mentioned by many legislators was that Kentucky has made great education progress since passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA). Sadly, while the state’s public education system has made some progress in the past quarter of a century, it’s a real stretch to say “great” progress has been made. Let’s examine why inflated claims of great progress are out of order.

Figure 1 shows the NAEP Grades 4 and 8 reading and math proficiency rates for all Kentucky students from the earliest available year of testing and the most recent, 2015 results. There obviously has been progress, more in Grade 4 than Grade 8, but calling this a “great” accomplishment just isn’t right.

For example, only 40 percent of Kentucky’s fourth graders tested at or above NAEP’s Proficient level in 2015 in both fourth grade math and reading. That means that after a quarter of a century of KERA, 60 percent of our fourth graders – well over half – still don’t meet muster in either subject. After a quarter of a century, with so far yet to go, does it seem right to talk about “great progress?”

In the eighth grade NAEP, results were even worse. Only 36 percent of the state’s eighth graders scored at or above the NAEP Proficient level in reading. Far more disturbing, only a truly disappointing 28 percent of Kentucky’s eighth graders met muster in NAEP math. That means 72 percent of the state’s eighth grade students – as of 2015, a full quarter century after the launch of KERA – still don’t perform adequately in math.

Figure 1

Kentucky's NAEP Proficiency Rates on 4th and 8th Grade Reading and Math Assessments, Earliest Year Tested and 2015, All Students

Based on the known rates of progress that can be calculated using the data shown in Figure 1, the Bluegrass Institute projected the number of years following 2015 that remain before Kentucky can anticipate that at least 80 percent of its students will score proficient or above on the NAEP. You can see those projections in the table inserted in the upper right side of Figure 1. Those time estimates to reach 80 percent proficiency rates on the NAEP range from at least 34 more years required in Grade 4 math to an astonishing 126 more years for Grade 8 Reading.

With so much left to do, it is obviously inappropriate to crow about already making “great” progress. A large amount of progress simply hasn’t happened.

By the way, the situation looks MUCH worse when we examine the NAEP performance of Kentucky’s black students. Claiming “great progress” once this actual data is examined is simply unacceptable.

As Figure 2 shows, even as 2015, the NAEP reports only depressingly low percentages of Kentucky’s black students scored proficient or above in both Grade 4 and Grade 8 reading and mathematics.

Figure 2

Kentucky's NAEP Proficiency Rates on 4th and 8th Grade Reading and Math Assessments, Earliest Year Tested and 2015, Black Students Only

In two cases shown in the table insert in Figure 2, the trends on NAEP tell us Kentucky is nearly a century away from seeing a desirable math proficiency rate for its black students. In eighth grade math, the goal is the better part of two centuries away. In the case of Grade 8 Reading, the 80 percent proficiency rate goal is more than 2-1/2 centuries away!

This is simply unacceptable.

Clearly, Kentucky’s actual NAEP performance renders claims of great progress to be greatly exaggerated.

[Read more…]

News release: Bluegrass Institute asks state Senate to make mayors, universities and the CPE authorizers of charter schools

For Immediate Release: Monday, March 6, 2017  BIPPS LOGO

(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Kentucky House of Representatives on Friday passed legislation enabling the creation of charter schools in the commonwealth – a school-choice option currently available to families in 43 other states and the District of Columbia.

Legislators voted 56-39 to approve Rep. John “Bam” Carney’s House Bill 520, which allows the creation of charter schools statewide but limits authorization – and much of the control of – charters in most districts to local school boards.

An amendment passed in Friday’s hearing of the bill by the House Education Committee would allow the mayors of Metro Louisville and Lexington to serve as authorizers.

The bill now moves over to the Senate for its consideration.

“We would encourage the Senate to strengthen this bill by allowing mayors in other cities, universities and colleges with accredited schools of education and the Council on Postsecondary Education to also serve as authorizers – or to, at the very least, include mayors of some of the growing cities in the authorization process,” Bluegrass Institute president Jim Waters said.

“The fact that there are local superintendents and boards of education that expressed hostility toward the concept of charter schools before this year’s legislative session even began –  and long before Rep. Carney’s bill was even introduced – speaks strongly to the fact that charter-school applicants are unlikely to get a fair hearing or support from these anti-choice zealots,” Waters said.

For instance, the Elizabethtown Independent Schools Board of Education on Dec. 19 – two full weeks before the legislative session began – passed a resolution unanimously opposing charter schools.

Charter schools are innovative public schools designed by educators, parents or civic leaders, which, in exchange for freedom from many of the stifling regulations and red tape hampering teaching in traditional public schools, pledge in their charters to perform at a higher academic level.

Nationwide, high-performing charter schools are helping close achievement and graduation gaps by offering a real public-education alternative to parents and students who cannot afford to pay private-school tuition or move closer to a better school.

Yet this option likely will not be available in districts like Elizabethtown Independent unless additional authorizers are permitted.

“It’s illogical to believe that a school board so ideologically opposed to the very idea of charter schools in an in-your-face manner is going to acquiesce and not only allow charters but oversee them in a supportive manner that gives them a fair shot of success,” Waters said.

Both Elizabethtown Independent and neighboring Hardin County school districts face serious gaps related to their performance with minorities. Charter schools are helping close such gaps across the nation.

We believe the following information about what’s happening in Hardin County and Elizabethtown Independent school districts bolsters our case for additional authorizers to ensure charter-school applications are fairly considered:

* Despite receiving $16.7 million in funding to educate 2,400 students during the 2014-15 school year – a 44-percent increase in real dollars from the 2006-07 school year – the state’s K-PREP scores indicate less than 12 percent of Elizabethtown’s black elementary school students were proficient in math during the 2015-16 school year.

* The whopping 42-percent gap in math proficiency between black and white elementary school students (incidentally, white students’ 54-percent proficiency rate isn’t anything to send home on the bus, either) is much larger than even the statewide 24-percent gap.

* Considering less than 60 percent of white high schoolers in Elizabethtown Independent and fewer than 50 percent in Hardin County schools are demonstrating proficiency in math, white families need options, too.

* Even with a current nonresident student agreement between the two districts, which allows parents to enroll their children in a neighboring district, there’s not much of a real choice as both districts struggle with large white minus black achievement gaps and dire academic performance by minority students.

Nationwide, charter schools are proving a valuable tool in helping struggling students make often-dramatic progress in not only closing the white minus black achievement gap but also in academically surpassing their peers in traditional public schools.

Opponents of this form of parental school choice often point to the performance only of first-year charter-school students in claiming that charters don’t excel.

However, given that the U.S. Department of Education in its examination of quality charter schools noted that many students enter these schools “performing far below grade level” and “are from neighborhoods and families with scant resources,” it’s not surprising that that students who have only spent a year in charter schools remain notably behind.

The research shows: these new students simply haven’t been in the charter school long enough to benefit.

Carefully gathered data by Stanford University’s Center for Research and Education Outcomes (CREDO) reveals:

* By the time students spend two years in charter schools, they move ahead of their traditional public-school counterparts by an equivalent of several weeks of learning in both reading and math.

* Even more remarkable, nationwide, on average, by the time students spend four or more years in charters, they are out in front of their traditional public-school counterparts. In math, the charter students have about an equivalent of 43 extra days of learning in math and 50 additional days in reading.

* In Louisiana’s above-average charter system, by the time students spend four or five years in a charter school, they generally outperform their traditional public-school peers by about 180 days – the equivalent of a full extra year of schooling – in both reading and math.

* Students who spend four years in New York City’s outstanding charter system received the benefit of an additional 216 extra days of learning in math.

“Considering the remarkable gains being made in charters schools nationwide – particularly with at-risk students – the state Senate should strengthen House Bill 520 by adding at least one other type of authorizer in districts like Elizabethtown, which have been openly hostile to even the concept of charters,” Waters said.

“Adding authorizers will increase the likelihood of more – and better – charter schools by encouraging organizations with proven track records when it comes to creating and operating charter schools to apply while lessening the likelihood that local school districts will be able to stifle the creation and blossoming of these innovative public schools,” he added.

For more information, please contact Jim Waters at jwaters@ freedomkentucky.com, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).

 

 

Kentucky House approves charter school bill

It’s now officially recorded. The Kentucky House has approved the state’s first charter school bill by a vote of 56 to 39.

Vote Tally on HB 520 During Vote Explanation

Legislation Alert: House Bill 520 to establish charter schools passed by Kentucky House Education Committee

Full House debating now

Today marks a notable move forward in the attempt to bring more school choice to Kentucky. House Bill 520, with amendments, received a favorable vote in the Kentucky House’s Education Committee this morning.

The discussion on the bill included highlights by several key Kentucky leaders including Kentucky Governor Matt Bevin, Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner, and Kentucky Board of Education member Pastor Milton Seymore in addition to those from the bill’s sponsor, Kentucky Representative John (Bam) Carney.

Starting shortly after noon, the legislation is now being heard in the full Kentucky House.

Important late-breaking changes to the approved bill include the deletion of pure online charter schools and the addition of the mayors of Louisville and Lexington as authorizers.

If eventually adopted, House Bill 520 would make Kentucky the 44th state to have a charter school law.

Event Alert: BIPPS scholar debating charter schools tonight

LSCDicksBluegrass Institute Scholar and Kentucky Board of Education (KBE) member Gary Houchens will participate in a town hall on charter schools at 6 pm today in Room 110 at Madisonville Community College Muhlenberg Campus, 406 W. Everly Brothers Blvd., Central City.

The event is free and open to the public.

Houchens, Ph.D., is associate professor and coordinator of the School Principal Certification program in Western Kentucky University’s Department of Educational Administration, Leadership and Research.

Tonight’s event is hosted by the Muhlenberg County Democratic Party Executive Committee said the event will be nonpartisan and will be held “debate style” according to media liaison Stacie Barton.

Houchens will be joined by fellow KBE member Ben Cundiff, chairman of Jackson Financial Corp.; Gay Adelmann, member of Save Our Schools Kentucky; Ellen Yonts Suetholz, attorney at Kircher, Suetholz & Associates, PSC; and Dr. Susan Edington, assistant professor of early childhood and elementary education at Murray State University and former KBE member.

Each presenter will speak for about 15 minutes, and at the end, those in attendance will have the opportunity to ask questions.

“We are trying to do more outreach in education on topics that are in front of the legislation right now and affect our local area,” Barton said. “It should be an interesting meeting and informative.”

Three charter school bills were filed before this year’s General Assembly deadline for introducing bills.

Find more about the Bluegrass Institute’s analysis of what makes a strong and weak charter school bills here and here.

Houchens is a former social studies teacher, assistant principal and district administrator who has served in both public and private school settings.

He recently led a School Choice Solutions Roundtable for the Bluegrass Institute. Watch his presentation here.

 

Beware Beshear’s claims about Kentucky’s high school graduation rates!

Former Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear delivered a rather weak response to President Donald Trump’s recent — and impressive — address to the joint meeting of the Congress.

In his remarks, Beshear touted Kentucky’s rapid growth in high school graduation rates. It sounded impressive, but the nation deserves to hear the rest of this misleading story.

At the end of the 2015-16 school year, the Kentucky School Report Cards database reported a high school graduation rate of 88.6 percent based on the new Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) formula now required for federal reporting. That graduation rate is indeed well above the national average and has increased slightly from the 86.1 percent ACGR posted by Kentucky at the end of the 2012-13 school year (which is the first year Kentucky used this new formula, making comparisons to earlier years’ graduation rates inappropriate).

Kentucky’s ACGR numbers look impressive, but the real question is whether or not Kentucky’s recent high school graduates are getting the education those diplomas are supposed to represent. Unfortunately, there is very strong evidence that Kentucky is just handing out lots of rather hollow diplomas.

Hollow Diplomas Exhibit A starts with a review of Kentucky’s education regulations.

Kentucky regulation 704 KAR 3:305, “Minimum requirements for high school graduation” stipulates that Kentucky’s high school graduates will be competent in mathematics through Algebra II.

However, the Kentucky School Report Card database shows the proficiency rate on the state’s Algebra II End-of-Course Exam was only 38.2 percent in the 2014-15 school term (most Kentucky students take Algebra II in the 11th grade)! And, Algebra II proficiency rates haven’t changed much since Algebra II End-of-Course testing began in 2011-12 when the rate was actually a bit higher at 40.0 percent.

Clearly, it takes some “very interesting” math to reconcile a 38.2 Algebra II proficiency rate with a high school graduation rate of 88.6 percent when competency in that math subject is a stipulated requirement to get those diplomas.

But, there is more, as Hollow Diplomas Exhibit B shows.

Kentucky’s stated goal for its public education system is to make students ready for college and/or a career (CCR). The state has actually developed a number of metrics based on a variety of different tests and other things like earning a recognized industry certificate, e.g. a welder’s certificate, as evidence of such readiness. The current CCR criteria have been around since the 2011-12 school term.

However, in 2015-16 the Kentucky School Report Cards show only 68.5 percent of those students who received a Kentucky high school diploma were able to meet muster under any of the various ways available to establish readiness for either college or a career. The rest of the 2015-16 graduates, nearly one-third of the total, were not ready for either college or a career and clearly got a rather hollow diploma.

In fact, if you combine the data for graduation rates and CCR rates for 2015-16 together, it looks like only around 61 percent of Kentucky’s entering ninth graders who became the Class of 2016 actually graduated from high school with a meaningful education. That “Effective Graduation Rate” of only 61 percent isn’t something anyone would cheer.

So, beware Beshear’s Kentucky high school graduation claims. More kids are probably getting paper in Kentucky (though even that number has not been rigorously audited to my knowledge). But, this clearly is happening only because regulatory requirements and stated education goals are being ignored in a rush to socially promote students to a piece of paper regardless of merit.

For more on this important topic:

Kentucky’s high school diploma quality control problems continue in 2016 – Part 1

Kentucky’s high school diploma quality control problems continue in 2016 – Part 2

1Pager: Kentucky’s kids deserve a strong charter-school law

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Kentucky schools, where an “A” might not really be an “A”

I wrote a few days ago about new research from the Kentucky Department of Education that compares average mathematics letter grades to performance on Kentucky’s math assessments.

That initial blog discusses the fact that Kentucky’s children of color are generally getting higher letter grades for math than white students receive for similar test score performance.

Today, I expand on that with another graph from the recently released “The State of P-12 Education in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.” This new graph compares the overall average math grades for all high school students to the probability the students are really ready for college math. The test measure is the ACT college entrance test, and the ACT readiness score has been set by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education (CPE) as a rather undemanding low of 19.

The Kentucky Department of Education says the figures used to generate the graph are for average performances across 2012 to 2016 data.

High School Grades Vs CPE ACT Benchmarks for All Students

There are some disturbing things in this graph.

The far right side of the graph provides evidence that even consistently scoring an “A” in Kentucky public high school math courses provides no guarantee of real math readiness. Less than 75 percent of the students who averaged an “A” in their high school math courses were also able to pass muster against the undemanding ACT target set by the CPE.

Things get more bothersome quickly as we move down the grade scale. Even for those students averaging a “B” in math, the picture is pretty grim. Fewer than one in two of those students are likely to meet the low requirement set by the CPE. For students with still lower math grades, the odds of surviving college math look pretty gruesome.

By the way, while the CPE says an ACT math score of 19 is good enough to avoid remedial coursework in college, the ACT says that a notably higher math score of 22 is actually needed to have at least a 75 percent chance of getting at least a “C” in the lower-level college math course of algebra.

In Kentucky’s public postsecondary system, a grade point average below 2.0 (generally a “C” average) will not allow graduation.

We often hear that high school grade point averages are better predictors of college performance than other factors like ACT scores. That correlation might have been true in the past, but when grading in Kentucky’s public school system today seems in too many cases to vary widely from real performances needed to succeed, this old rule of thumb might not be true anymore.

In any event, parents beware. Just because your kid gets an “A,” don’t think you are home free. There are plenty of stories of “A” students arriving on campus only to discover that they are not ready for college level math. Sometimes, that shock is more than our kids today can handle. And, based on this new research from the Kentucky Department of Education, it looks like there is plenty of room for even “A” students to get some very unpleasant surprises upon college entry.

Bluegrass Beacon: Embrace politically ecumenical policies

BluegrassBeaconLogoWhile the 2017 session of the Kentucky General Assembly has had its share of party-line votes, some policies designed to make government more transparent and accountable have garnered bipartisan support.

The decision by House Speaker Jeff Hoover and Senate President Robert Stivers to direct the Legislative Research Commission (LRC) to publish committee votes online within 24 hours is being hailed by policymakers across the political spectrum.

The decision resulted from a letter spearheaded by the United Kentucky Tea Party and signed by groups as diverse in their political views as Donald Trump and Chuck Schumer are concerning immigration policy – from Take Back Kentucky to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Apart from the most controversial bills, which usually result in the filing of floor amendments, most legislation’s heavy lifting occurs in committee hearings.

“Because the House and Senate committees have great influence on the consideration of bills by the full body, it is imperative that this critical process is similarly visible to the citizens of Kentucky,” the jointly signed letter.

Your humble correspondent enthusiastically signed as president of the Bluegrass Institute, which led the effort in 2005 to give citizens prompt access to votes on bills taken on the state House and Senate floors.

While that certainly was a giant step forward, making committee roll-call votes available in real time will, as Speaker Pro-Tem David Osborne, R-Prospect, observed, give constituents “access to every move we make on their behalf.”

House Minority Leader Rocky Adkins, D-Sandy Hook, also said his side of the aisle “concur and support the publication of legislative committee votes posted online.”

It should also change the practice of legislators passing on votes to avoid tough politically fraught decisions.

Committee-vote results for the remainder of this legislative session can be obtained by clicking:

  • “Legislation” at the top of the LRC website’s home page, then
  • “2017 Regular Session,” then
  • “In Senate” or “In House,” depending on which of the chamber’s committee voted on the bill.

It’s temporarily clunky. However, the information will become much-more useful once committee votes are included on bills’ vote history, which will be added later.

Senate Bill 3, which passed with a 95-1 vote during the session’s first week, is proving not only to make taxpayer dollars more transparent but also to have great impact as taxpayers get a full view of 400 current and retired lawmakers’ pension benefits.

Such transparency has made it possible for reporters and media outlets statewide to report on politicians who reap a six-figure pension by gaming the legislative retirement system for a lifetime while also double-dipping via collecting a second fat check from other state benefit plans.

Space doesn’t permit me to give you the lowdown on several other retired politicians collecting more than $100,000 in taxpayer-funded pension benefits nor on the sexual harassers, felons, even murderers who receive a lifetime of public-retirement checks courtesy of we, the taxpayers.

But you can see it for yourself now.

Another policy that deserves the same type of overwhelming bipartisan support is Louisville Rep. Ken Fleming’s proposal to conduct an inventory of state government with the goal of cutting wasteful duplication and costs of services.

Fleming’s House Joint Resolution 35 directs the Finance and Administration Cabinet to determine what services currently are provided by each department or agency, the price tag of those services and “the feasibility of privatizing, consolidating, or otherwise changing those functions and services to achieve costs savings.”

Based on his experience as a small-business owner and former Louisville Metro Council member, Fleming told me he believes there’s a “silo mentality approach to government operations” which too often results in “a lack of truly understanding the cost of delivering services,” as well as duplication of delivery of services – some of which government should not even be doing.

“Government cannot be run as a business, but it sure can embrace a lot of business applications,” Fleming said.

That’s an idea both sides of the political aisle can – and should – embrace.

Jim Waters is president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Read his weekly Bluegrass Beacon column at www.bipps.org. He can be reached at jwaters@freedomkentucky.com and @bipps on Twitter.

 

Tonight: Bluegrass Institute president joins panel discussion fake news and the news media

LEXINGTON — The Bluegrass Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists will host a free public forum Feb. 23 titled, “Finding real facts in an alternative fact world.”

A panel of local, regional and national professionals will examine the role of the news media and provide a better public understanding of how it works. The group also hopes to facilitate an ongoing conversation about the importance of a free press in a democracy. The event will be 6:30-8 p.m. in Room A of Central Library, 140 E. Main Street, Lexington.

Panelists include Jim Waters, newspaper columnist and president of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, a free-market think tank; Ryan Craig, owner of The Todd County Standard, a weekly newspaper in Western Kentucky and president of the Kentucky Press Association; Tom Eblen, columnist and former managing editor of The Lexington Herald-Leader; Campbell Robertson, national correspondent for The New York Times; and Kathy Stone, assistant news director at television station WLEX-18; and

Moderating will be Ginny Whitehouse, Ph.D., a journalism professor at Eastern Kentucky University specializing in media literacy, ethics and law.