In the space of just two days, Kentuckians have been treated to not one, but two separate examples of how hard it is to find really incisive research about how our commonwealth’s public school system truly performs.
The first example came during Monday’s “Kentucky Tonight” show on KET:
At 5 minutes 30 seconds into the broadcast, Brigit Blom Ramsey of the Prichard Committee said Kentucky had been at the bottom on education indicators in the 1980s but has now risen to the middle of the pack on indicators like the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP).
Ramsey’s conclusion appears correct, but only if you limit your view to overall average scores with no drilling down for additional context. Due to very different student demographics across the states, that limited approach, which considers only overall average scores, winds up comparing a whole lot of white students’ performance in Kentucky to a lot of minority students’ performance in other states. It is misleading, giving Kentucky a very unfair advantage.
To get a better picture about how Kentucky education really performs, you have to break scores out by race and then do comparisons. When you do that, as you can read in my Tuesday blog, “Kentucky’s real progress (?) on the National Assessment of Educational Progress – Obviously needed update,” the picture changes drastically.
For example, it turns out that Kentucky’s white students in 2017 only statistically significantly outscored whites in just two other states on NAEP Grade 8 Math. That, as Figure 1 illustrates, isn’t middle of the pack.
Get an even better handle on how Kentucky really performs on NAEP Grade 8 Math by looking at my blog above or just using the search term “NAEP” in our blog’s search feature to learn more.
So, Ramsey didn’t give you the full, right stuff about Kentucky’s educational performance. But, to my surprise, she got joined Wednesday by another group that doesn’t understand how student demographics and a solid understanding of data must be considered if you want to fairly rank Kentucky’s education against other states.
The new entrant in the incomplete-at-best research category is the Pegasus Institute, which posted a blog titled “Kentucky has below average ACT scores, but there’s a catch . . .” on August 15, 2018.
Well, there is indeed a catch or two here, but it involves Pegasus very incomplete analysis. To see what’s going on, just click on the “Read more” link.