Before I get into this, I want to make it clear that even though Kentucky was the first state to adopt them, the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) in English Language Arts and in Mathematics have not been in use long enough in the Bluegrass State to support any decent judgments about how things are going.
Sadly, that shortage of data is not stopping others from writing about supposed progress being made in Kentucky since CCSSS were adopted here in February, 2010 (here’s one recent example).
So, as I was working on something else a day or so ago, I realized it might be worthwhile to show you some of the Kentucky proficiency rate data I recently obtained from the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) Data Explorer web tool.
This first graph shows some of the more recent NAEP Grade 8 Mathematics proficiency rates for Kentucky’s white and black students. The span of years I selected was based on the fact that Kentucky’s black performance on NAEP Grade 8 math has been flat since 2007. That includes the short span of years that Common Core has been in Kentucky, most definitely including the two years that CCSS aligned math tests have been given here.
By the way, there is statistical sampling error in these NAEP rates. NAEP statistics indicate the true white proficiency rate in 2013 could vary by plus or minus two percentage points or so and the black rate might vary plus or minus about four percentage points. Still, there isn’t any real indication of progress from NAEP since CCSS hit Kentucky. Even worse, NAEP’s best estimates of proficiency rates in Kentucky for both races remain dismally low.
And, there is more to the story.
Here is a similar graph of the NAEP Grade 4 Reading proficiency rates for Kentucky’s whites and blacks. Once again, the time scale was selected to show you how far back Kentucky’s blacks have been posting flat scores on NAEP.
The white measurement error in the 2013 reading rate was a bit larger at plus or minus about three percentage points, by the way. A statistical significance test feature in the NAEP Data Explorer indicates the white NAEP Grade 4 Reading performance in Kentucky is statistically flat back to 2007.
Of interest is the relatively big drop in black NAEP Grade 4 Reading in Kentucky between 2011 and 2013. It’s not large enough to be statistically significant; however, this best estimate from NAEP for 2013 is no different from the proficiency rate for blacks way back in 2003; furthermore, it is a dismally low number.
By the way, there have been other claims of progress based on Kentucky’s new College and Career Readiness (CCR) statistic, which is part of the new Unbridled Learning school accountability program. To reiterate, it’s too soon to make a lot of claims regarding this statistic. I say this in part because there has been little improvement in Kentucky’s ACT college entrance test results in recent years. In addition, one of the other ways Kentucky uses to compute the new CCR rate is based upon COMPASS test results and the validity of those results is currently in some question. Recently, both Kentucky and the ACT, Inc. outlawed the use of certain calculators on COMPASS because they can inflate scores.
So far, however, there have been no estimates about how much the reported 2013 CCR rates in Kentucky might have been impacted by the COMPASS problem, making any claims regarding CCR rates in the Bluegrass State shaky.
So, the takeaway here is that the NAEP, one of the best test products available, does not support claims of progress since Common Core came to Kentucky. Furthermore, the College and Career Readiness rates in Kentucky may not be accurate.
One last point: it is going to take more time to really see if CCSS benefit our kids, but the NAEP proficiency rates above make it very clear that a whole lot of improvement is needed.