The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence and the Bluegrass Institute generally agree. Some Kentucky schools do a good job for students despite high poverty rates.
However, when it comes to measuring that performance, we have our differences.
Over at Prichard, they cooked up a “Transition Index” that attempts to carry on tradition with the remaining Kentucky Core Content Tests from the now defunct CATS. Prichard just used their contrived index to identify “high performance, high-poverty schools.”
Here at the institute, we prefer to look at more solid test results when possible. Thanks to Senate Bill 130 from the 2006 regular legislative session, we now have such data for our middle and high schools.
So, when Prichard posted a list of “high performance, high-poverty schools,” I decided to see what happened when I looked at the PLAN (grade 10) and EXPLORE (grade 8) results for those schools.
I went further, looking at the four-year trend in the PLAN and EXPLORE, as well as the year-by-year scores.
These two tables summarize what I found. First is the EXPLORE data. The “slope of the regression” column shows results from a standard statistical process that looks at data and then finds the best fit straight line approximation. A positive slope means overall the trend is increasing, and the larger the slope, the faster the rate of increase.
Note that in 2008-09, the year Prichard used for its study, two schools, South Floyd Middle and Wallins Elementary School, didn’t even achieve state average EXPLORE Composite Scores.
Also, over the four-year period, the schools with slope of the regression and the rank (which is for that slope of the regression) highlighted in pink didn’t place in the “top 25 percent,” either.
One school, the Kimper Elementary School, was way out of the top running for its trend in scores.
Of course, Prichard only looked at one year of data, for 2009, while the analysis above is much more extensive and considers four years of data. The lesson there is that you can miss a lot if you only look at a point in time when analyzing a school.
Here is the table for the high school PLAN results.
Once again, some of Prichard’s schools do well in this trend analysis, but not all do.
Worse, in 2008-09 four of Prichard’s seven high schools scored below state average on the PLAN Composite. Whatever these schools are teaching, it may create impressive KCCT scores, but it does not look like the schools are doing a good job of getting kids ready for postsecondary education.
The good news here is that some of the schools in both lists do a good job across the board for their kids. They are getting them better prepared than other state schools for postsecondary education. The caution is that simplistic evaluation of a single year of data from a test series that is being phased out isn’t exactly the best way to find those schools.
EXPLORE and PLAN averages are available here.