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.