Over at Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday’s blog, he just posted these comments about nationwide performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP):
“All groups of children – white and non-white – have increased NAEP performance by as much as 20 to 30 points over the past 30 years. However, the overall NAEP has moved only a couple of points.”
As the commissioner’s comments point out, there is a seeming contradiction where NAEP has seen big score increases for all student racial groups while the overall average score changes have been small. The effect even has a name: “Simpson’s Paradox.”
Although the commissioner makes this sound like a recent revelation. That’s not the case.
In fact, the problem of seemingly slow overall progress in other states on the NAEP is well-known.
This problem has been well-known for years.
And, the problem has held national average and other states’ NAEP scores back much more elsewhere than in Kentucky.
Furthermore, some in Kentucky have taken advantage of the Simpson’s Paradox in NAEP to create inflated claims about Kentucky’s educational performance.
Sadly, the truth is that as soon as you disaggregate NAEP data by race, claims of great progress in Kentucky’s schools start to look a lot less credible. Consider this map based on the 2011 NAEP Grade 8 Mathematics Assessment. Clearly, in eighth grade math, our white kids have been seriously left behind. Once you consider that whites make up 84 percent of our current school enrollment, this becomes an especially disturbing situation.