We close out our first look at achievement gaps from Kentucky’s new K-PREP assessments with a discussion about the high school level data.
First, it is important to understand that, unlike the K-PREP tests for elementary and middle schools, high school K-PREP reading and math data does not come from Kentucky’s own, state-developed tests. Instead, high school K-PREP scores come from end-of-course exams (EOC) from the ACT, Inc.’s Quality Core program. Quality Core exams are well coordinated with what our students need for college and careers.
K-PREP’s high school reading results are based on the Quality Core English II EOC and the math is from the Quality Core’s Algebra II EOC exam.
By the way, ACT, Inc. indicates that Quality Core has a very high correlation to the new Common Core State Standards; however, there are reports (subscription?) the alignment is only around 80 to 85 percent.
In any event, the first graph below shows the achievement gaps in Kentucky’s high schools for white to African-American and White to Hispanic reading proficiency rates (the combined percentage of students scored “Proficient” and “Distinguished”). Results from the new K-PREP and the now defunct Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT) in reading from 2011 are both shown. Unlike the elementary and middle school situations, high school reading is only reported one time, which is dependent upon when each student completes English II (Normally, but not necessarily, the 10th grade).
As an example of how to read this table, the first blue bar on the left shows the gap in proficiency rates between whites and African-Americans for high school reading was 23.5 percentage points on K-PREP in 2012. The red bar immediately to the right of the first bar shows that last year the white to African-American reading proficiency gap reported by the KCCT in the 10th grade was somewhat lower, at 18.1 percent.
Overall, following the change to K-PREP, the reading achievement gaps were larger for both African-Americans and Hispanics in Kentucky’s public high schools. This is exactly the same trend we earlier reported for elementary and middle school reading gaps.
Here is a similar graph for the K-PREP high school mathematics achievement gaps.
In math, the achievement gaps were reduced for both African-Americans and Hispanics in Kentucky’s high schools between the last year of the KCCT and the first K-PREP testing in 2012. The high school gaps are also somewhat smaller than those in the lower level grades.
However, there is an additional factor to consider when we talk about racial achievement gaps in high schools.
The disaggregated high school graduation statistics from 2011 (latest year available, used for 2012 Unbridled Learning Accountability), which are available by clicking on the “Graduation Rate” link here, show African-Americans had a high school graduation rate of only 70.3 percent while whites graduated at a rate of 79.0 percent. Because many dropouts occur prior to the end of the 10th grade, and because almost all dropouts depart by the end of the 11th grade, the lower African-American K-PREP gaps in high school need to be considered with caution. Some, perhaps all of the gap reduction simply may be due to a larger proportion of struggling students from this minority group dropping out prior to the time these tests are administered.
By the way, Hispanics supposedly graduated from Kentucky’s public high schools at a rate of 83.0 percent in 2011. That is a notably better rate than whites posted, which raises some credibility questions. When the Nonacademic data report was released by the Kentucky Department of Education earlier this year (available by clicking here), it showed the Hispanic high school graduation rate experienced a very sharp rise in 2011 of over 8 percentage points. The Hispanic population in Kentucky is still quite small compared to most states around the nation (somewhere around 3 percent or so of all students) – and data for small student groups tends to bounce around a bit from year to year – but this is still a rather exceptional one-year change.
It also must be noted that Kentucky still has not adopted the highly accurate Cohort Graduation Rate calculation. Kentucky still relies on the somewhat less accurate Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) formula. That can introduce errors in the numbers.
Still, given that Hispanics score notably lower than whites in the new K-PREP reading and math results, the exceptionally high Hispanic graduation rate in 2011 could imply that Hispanics are being socially promoted to diplomas in exceptionally high numbers.
This is, of course, all based on cross cohort data, and the AFGR formula isn’t as accurate as I would like, but this situation will need to be revisited once better quality graduation rate data becomes available after the Class of 2013 graduates.