Kentucky’s real progress (?) on the National Assessment of Educational Progress – Obviously needed update
I had a chance to participate last night on KET’s Kentucky Tonight program on education,and it was an interesting time.
Three minutes into the broadcast, show guest Dr. Steven Gordon mentioned that in a new report he co-authored with BIPPS Scholar Dr. John Garen that they found test score gains in Kentucky had only been modest at best on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP. This got questioned at 5 minutes 30 seconds into the broadcast by Brigit Ramsey of the Prichard Committee, who said Kentucky had been at the bottom on education indicators in the 1980s and that our state has now risen to the middle of the pack on things like NAEP.
That seems like two very different images about what has happened with Kentucky’s education since passage of the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990 (KERA), so let’s look at what the NAEP itself tells us. Figure 1 shows us how Kentucky’s white students compared to whites in other participating states on the 1990 NAEP Grade 8 Math Assessment.
As you can see in Figure 1, we got statistically significantly outscored by whites in 32 other states and didn’t outscore any state by a statistically significant amount.
Now, look at Figure 2 to see how this changed in 2017.
We did manage to outscore two states in 2017, but a whopping 42 other states plus Washington DC schools outscored us. That doesn’t look like much improvement to me, and it certainly isn’t anywhere close to middle of the pack status.
Next, consider the situation for our black students. Figure 3 shows what happened in 1990.
No participating state in the nation had higher Grade 8 NAEP math scores in 1990 than Kentucky’s blacks posted and we outscored 7 other states and Washington, DC.
Now, check out Figure 4 to see how things looked for our black students in the 2017 NAEP Grade 8 Math Assessment.
Oh, my, how things changed. Now blacks in 12 other states are doing better and in no state do blacks score worse. Not one! Sure, we show ties with a lot of other states due to the relatively small number of blacks in Kentucky and the fact that as a sampled test, the NAEP has sampling errors that reduce precision, but the message for Kentucky’s blacks is clear: however, we did in 1990, we do worse now.
By the way, back in April 2018, I did a major blog series with a series of maps developed from the online NAEP Data Explorer web tool showing how Kentucky’s white students and Kentucky’s black students compared on NAEP between 2015 and 2017 with their racial counterparts in other states.
You can find the entire set of blogs with these links:
As you can tell from the titles, 2015 to 2017 wasn’t a good two-year period for our white students. You can see the maps by clicking the links to each blog.
Anyway, anyone talking about Kentucky now ranking in the middle of the pack on NAEP is playing games with our state’s very unusual, high white student demographics. Once you look at the results in a more objective way, it becomes clear that, especially for Grade 8 NAEP Math, Kentucky is nowhere near middle of the pack.