As we already reported, the Kentucky Legislature’s Interim Joint Committee on Education heard testimony on charter schools in its August meeting.
The video below has comments our own Jim Waters’ presented to the committee.
By the way, Jim’s testimony got one of the reporters at this event very upset. That reporter simply could not come to grips with the severity of the data Jim presented about the very low performance of our schools and rather rudely questioned the accuracy of Jim’s presentation. If anyone else doubts Jim’s unsettling figures, they can click on the “Read more” link below to find a detailed discussion about where these numbers, which are all directly traceable to official Kentucky Department of Education reports, come from.
Where did Jim Waters get those disturbing education numbers?
The numbers Jim cited to the Interim Joint Education Committee on August 9, 2010 are directly traceable to the Kentucky Department of Education’s official “Interim Performance Report” for 2009 for the state, which shows the most recently available results from the Kentucky Core Content Tests.
In most cases, Jim simply subtracted the published proficiency rate figure listed in the report from 100 percent to determine the proportion students who did not performing proficiently on state tests.
To begin, you can access the 2009 report (latest currently available) by clicking on the icon for the “Statewide Interim Performance Report” on this web page. You might want to do that so you can check everything I say for yourself (since I am confident at least one reporter in this state isn’t going to do that for you).
Now, here is what Jim reported in the video, and where you can find the source.
Jim stated that 28 percent of our fourth grade students were not proficient in math.
Page 11 in the Interim Performance Report version I downloaded on August 14, 2010 shows that overall, 71.35 percent were proficient in math. Thus, 100 minus 71 percent, or 29 percent were not proficient, according to the August 14 version of the Interim Performance Report (these reports are sometimes updated by the department, so the version Jim used might have listed a slightly different figure, which may explain the one point difference from rounding). If anything, Jim was generous by a point here.
Jim said that by middle school, 37 percent of our students were not proficient in math.
Jim used the seventh grade results as a proxy for all the middle schools. Page 34 in the Interim Report shows that 62.80 percent of the seventh grade students were proficient in math in 2009. With rounding, that means 37 percent were not proficient, just as Jim says in the video.
For purists, it is possible to compute an overall middle school proficiency rate using data on Page 32 in the report. That page shows that across all tested middle school grades (6, 7 and 8), 37.67 percent of our students scored Proficient and 23.26 percent scored even higher at Distinguished. That sums to 60.93 percent, which indicates 39 percent didn’t score proficient. Thus, the number Jim reported to the committee was somewhat more positive than is really the case for all middle school grades, but the two point difference isn’t important in the context of this discussion.
Jim said that by high school, 59 percent of our kids are not proficient in math.
We only test 11th grade students for math in our high schools. The data for them is found on Page 52 in the report, where it shows 41.19 percent of our students scored either Proficient or Distinguished. Jim’s number of 59 percent is thus exactly supported by the Interim Performance Report.
Jim said that 71 percent of low income students in high school score below proficient in math.
Page 52 also lists this figure under the usual proxy for poverty, which includes the students in the federal free and reduced cost lunch program (Shown as “F/R Lunch Approved” in the report). Only 28.10 percent of these low income high school students scored Proficient or more. With rounding, that means 72 percent were not proficient. Again, the report version Jim checked could have had a slightly different figure, but the one point difference is trivial.
Jim said that 79 percent of black high school students scored below proficient.
Page 52 also has the data pertaining to this comment. It shows 20.82 percent of the state’s African-American high school students scored Proficient or more, so it is obvious that 79 percent did not.
Jim said that in the subjects of math, science, social studies and writing, fewer than 30 percent of our high school minority and low income students were proficient.
I think he slightly misspoke and should have said “black” instead of “minority” in his statement. If you check Pages 52, 55, 58, and 61 in the report, you will find Jim’s statement holds true for both blacks and low income students.
But, Jim’s statement likely does hold when all the minority groups’ scores are averaged together. I say likely because, unfortunately, the Kentucky Department of Education no longer publishes the number of students in each racial category in the score reports. However, I am pretty sure that if I could take weighted averages of scores across all the minority groups, because blacks strongly outnumber all other groups, the overall average scores for all minorities would also fall below 30 percent proficiency.
For example, numbers for 11th grade minorities who took the CATS math assessment in 2008 were reported in the 2007-2008 Kentucky Performance Report for the state on Page 155. There were 4,610 blacks but only 731 Hispanics, 420 Asians, and 489 students who reported as “Other.” I applied those 2008 numbers to the 2009 scores for writing, the area where blacks scored their highest, and so did most of the other minority groups. The black writing proficiency rate was 25.91 percent. Taking the weighted average score for all the minorities produced an overall minority average score of 28.76 percent. Again, I have to use 2008 student numbers with the 2009 data for this estimate, but I think the 2009 numbers of students tested probably didn’t vary that much.
Jim said that in reading in high school, little more than half of low income students are proficient while only 44 percent of blacks are.
Page 49 in the Interim Performance Report for 2009 confirms those numbers.
The statistics that Jim Waters presented to the Interim Joint Education Committee are on target with the data from the Kentucky Department of Education. It is disappointing to me that even some members of the press who cover education frequently in this state simply don’t know what is really going on. Talk about denial.
Also, please understand that the data Jim quoted came from the Kentucky Core Content Test, which is being replaced because it provides an inflated idea about the real preparation of our students to face the 21st Century. Had Jim cited information from more credible tests like the National Assessment of Educational Progress, or the Benchmark Score performance on the ACT college entrance test, the numbers of students meeting standards would be MUCH lower still.
Now, you know more than at least one outspoken, but very misinformed, member of the media who covers education in this state.