Yes, Kentucky’s education progress has flatlined for years
The Monday, December 16, 2019, edition of Kentucky Tonight on KET provided all sorts of insight about public education.
I wrote a few days ago in Part 1 of this blog series about the progress of the state in the early years of the KERA education reform being greatly exaggerated.
But, all the show’s participants seemed to understand that in recent years education in Kentucky has basically flatlined. Still, I thought some interesting graphics based on the National Assessment of Educational Progress might help really bring this home for some misbelievers. So, here that is.
We’ll just look at Grade 4 results since the results for Grade 8 are not much different.
Figure 1 shows the proficiency rates for Grade 4 Reading that the NAEP has reported for Kentucky’s white and black students over time.
Please note that all NAEP scores have statistical sampling errors in them, and the actual proficiency rate for all of Kentucky’s students in any given year could be higher or lower than what the sample provided.
So, in working with the NAEP results you have to allow for the sampling errors in the scores. That is why proficiency rates for earlier years that are definitely statistically significantly different from the 2019 rates are shown in boldface type.
For example, white Grade 4 NAEP reading results for Kentucky in 2005 reported a proficiency rate of 33%. That is statistically significantly lower than the 2019 rate of 39%, so the year 2005 figure is in bold typeface. Basically, we can be sure to a 95% level of confidence that this difference is real and not just a sampling error artifact.
As you look at the white proficiency rates over time in Figure 1, you will see no rate after 2005 except for the 2015 rate is in bold typeface. All the rates from 2007 on, except for the 2015 rate, are essentially statistical ties with the 2019 rate.
The 2015 rate Grade 4 white student NAEP reading proficiency rate is a special case and actually is statistically significantly higher than the 2019 rate for whites. But, absent this year, after which a performance decline occurred, the best NAEP can tell us is that Kentucky’s white fourth grade students made no discernable progress in reading.
Things look even worse when we consider Kentucky’s black students. The current 2019 proficiency rate of just 14% (It’s hard to accept such a low rate after nearly 30 years of KERA!) is in fact not statistically significantly different from the 8% proficiency rate posted way back in 1992. Basically, once the sampling error in the NAEP is honored, black students have made no statistically detectable improvement during 27 years of NAEP Grade 4 reading testing! That’s just not acceptable.
Figure 2 shows a somewhat similar story for math in the past decade, though the amount of improvement overall has been greater.
Both white and black student proficiency rates in Kentucky flatlined on the NAEP Grade 4 math assessment since 2009. However, there has been some improvement over prior years’ performances.
So, there you have it, straight from one of the more respected assessment programs in the country. Kentucky’s education system hasn’t made any notable progress in at least a decade for both white and black students. For Grade 4 reading, Kentucky’s public education system hasn’t done anything for blacks since way back in 1992.
This is why we need to pay attention to Mississippi. The Magnolia State has many of the same problems we face in the Bluegrass State, but they moved ahead of us on Grade 4 NAEP for both white and black student results, and we need to look at how they did that. Our own flat performance demands it.
Tech Note: The NAEP proficiency rates were obtained from the online NAEP Data Explorer.