The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence has pushed statistical nonsense about the real performance of our public school system on and off for years. Sadly that trend is continued within this recent Op-Ed from Prichard head Robert F. Sexton.
The Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center (KLTPRC) has been shut down, but that doesn’t stop Sexton from citing statistical garbage in one of their last papers.
Which is really sad. Prichard owes Kentuckians a more honest accounting.
Of course, if Prichard really did that, more would understand that Kentucky’s very expensive education reform, which Prichard played a major hand in creating and nurturing, has not really done that much for the students in Kentucky.
I’ve written plenty about why the KLTPRC’s education rankings are nonsense, so I’ll just do a quick recap here.
For starters, you cannot do state to state comparisons with Kentucky’s current dropout data. It is highly inaccurate, as was officially established in 2006 by the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts.
Despite a feeble attempt in the latest KLTPRC report to explain this problem away, the truth is that many other states have already gotten honest about graduation and dropout rate reporting. Those states now have high quality student tracking programs. Their much more honest numbers absolutely cannot be compared to the inaccurate “stuff” Kentucky still reports. The KLTPRC’s nonsense excuse is an affront to those more honest states.
The ACT, Incorporated still says you can’t do state to state ranking with their college entrance test scores either. That didn’t stop the KLTPRC from ranking ACT scores, anyway.
In addition, you can’t simplistically rank scores from state to state for the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) the way Sexton and his compatriots do (Sexton was on the governing board for the KLTPRC until its demise, by the way).
Student demographics across the nation have changed too much in the past two decades to allow such simplistic comparisons to provide an accurate picture of progress.
For example, Kentucky’s latest NAEP fourth grade reading sample according to the 2009 NAEP Reading Report Card, Table A-9, is 84 percent white, 10 percent black and three percent Hispanic. The other racial groups in Kentucky are generally are so small that the scores are not even reported for them.
By comparison, across the nation the 2009 white proportion was only 54 percent, blacks were 16 percent and Hispanics ran 21 percent. Since blacks and Hispanics score much lower than whites, the fact that we have a much higher percentage of whites inflates our overall average score compared to other parts of the country with more diversity. By the way, a great proportion of those Hispanics are still learning English, but they take the NAEP reading test in English, anyway. This further depresses scores elsewhere.
Once you disaggregate the NAEP data by race, a different picture starts to emerge. Table A-12 in the same NAEP Report Card shows 39 percent of Kentucky’s fourth grade whites were reading proficiently while across the nation 41 percent were. For our black fourth grade students, 13 percent read proficiently in 2009 while nationally 15 percent did.
That blows some holes in Sexton’s claim that Kentucky students scored above the national average in reading, doesn’t it.
As I wrote here yesterday, things look much worse for our kids in eighth grade math.