On Tuesday, the dubiously reorganized Kentucky Board of Education got an update on recent assessment results. This included a very brief and incomplete discussion of the state’s 2019 performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). It was an inadequate briefing, but the dubiously reorganized board members never questioned it. Let’s fix that.
First, our regular readers know that simply looking at overall average scores on the NAEP isn’t a good way to compare state to state results. One major reason why is that racial demographics vary widely across the states today, which makes simplistic comparisons only of overall average scores an exercise in apples to oranges.
Consider this: In the 2019 NAEP Grade 4 Reading assessment, Kentucky’s public school enrollment was listed as 75% white. In notable contrast, the national public school enrollment is now only 46% white, and some states have much lower white proportions, including Texas at only 27%, New Mexico at only 23%, California at only 21% white and Hawaii at just 13% white. Overall, only seven states have white enrollment percentages higher than Kentucky’s.
What this means is that when only the “all students” scores are compared between the states, the analysis winds up comparing a lot of white students in Kentucky to a lot of children of color in other states. That just won’t work because large racial achievement gaps are found in virtually every state. Even though Kentucky’s whites score low, as we will shortly see, they still outscore virtually all the minority students, so comparing all student scores across the states loads the deck in Kentucky’s favor.
To do state to state comparisons somewhat more accurately, you really need to break out the results separately for each race.
To see how that works out, just click the “Read more” link.