When students drop out, everyone loses.
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There is no question – math has historically been the weakest academic area in Kentucky’s public school system.
Thus, the Kentucky Legislature’s Education Assessment and Accountability Review Subcommittee (EAARS) directed the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability (OEA) to perform a very extensive study of the situation. The report has been presented to the EAARS for review in three separate parts.
Part three was discussed at the committee’s meeting on December 7, 2009, and it looks like the OEA has taken a very deep look at the problems, which should make the final report a must read for many educators in this state.
However, I was especially struck by a couple of very candid comments made by the OEA briefing team on the seventh. Here is what was said,
“In general, we noticed, um, a kind of a suspicious relationship between district administrators and high school math teachers. In general, um, district administrators did not engage much with high school math teachers, and, um, made some sarcastic comments. Like, one district administrator suggested that there’s a special place in the after life for high school math teachers – and not a very nice place.”
“Some, um, Kentucky teachers lack the actual basic mathematics knowledge that they might need and lack the flexibility in knowing how to approach a problem when they, um, see it.”
No wonder we have problems.
And, hats off to the OEA team who clearly worked very hard to bring some of these issues to light.
Here are the math proficiency rates for grade 4 and grade 8 students in Jefferson County Public Schools from the new 2009 NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment report.
As you can see, in 2009 the NAEP said that only around one in three fourth grade students and barely more than one in five eighth grade students in Jefferson County were proficient in math.
That overall situation is pretty disappointing, but for blacks in Louisville, the situation is positively grim, especially in eighth grade. In eighth grade, only about one in fifteen black students in Jefferson County is getting adequate math preparation according to the NAEP scores.
By the way, those eighth grade NAEP proficiency rates in math agree very closely with the percentage of our students who score at or above the ACT EXPLORE test’s “Benchmark Scores” that indicate reasonable preparation for college. I talked about this back in April.
I bring this up now because some educators complain that the NAEP proficiency level is set too high, usually because the NAEP results don’t paint a very nice picture of our school performance. I expect those sorts of comments will pop up in Louisville, too.
Well, consider this. Most of us understand the new economy means kids need to have preparation for postsecondary education of some sort or another. So, I would argue that the close agreement between the NAEP proficiency standard and the EXPLORE Benchmark Score standard – which is linked to real student performance in a typical US college – indicates that the NAEP proficiency level has very significant meaning. NAEP proficiency is probably the target we need our schools to shoot for, even if they have a very long way to go to reach it.
New National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) results from the 2009 Trial Urban District Assessment in Mathematics are out. For the first time, the Jefferson County Public School System in Louisville participated in this special administration of the NAEP.
Unfortunately, while Louisville had strong demographic advantages compared to other participating school systems, its math performance was no better than middle of the pack, at best. For example, Jefferson County’s eighth grade whites only outscored students in three of the other 17 participating school systems, while the eighth grade blacks in Jefferson County did only slightly better, besting blacks in five other participating cities.
And, poverty was no excuse.
A map summarizing the NAEP Trial Urban District Assessment results shows that Louisville’s scores in both fourth and eighth grade were no better than average scores in the nation’s largest city school systems.
The same summary page shows that for some reported categories, Louisville students had statistically significantly lower scores than the nation’s largest cities.
In fourth grade, whites and students eligible for the federal school lunch program (often used as a measure of poverty) scored worse than their peers in the nation’s large city school systems.
In eighth grade, both whites and blacks as well as students in the lunch program scored below the large city averages.
I’m still looking at the new NAEP reports, but it is clear that Louisville had some significant advantages compared to the other cities in the new urban district score release. I obtained the following numbers using the Main NAEP Data Explorer.
Sixty percent of Louisville’s fourth grade students were eligible for the federal lunch program – the second lowest eligibility rate among the 18 large city school districts that participated. Only Charlotte had a lower rate. Thirteen of the eighteen participating systems had a lunch eligibility rate at least 10 points higher than Louisville’s. In other words, Louisville is comparatively wealthy compared to the other participants.
Louisville’s eighth grade lunch eligibility rate situation was virtually identical. Only Charlotte had less poverty, and thirteen of the eighteen participating systems had a lunch eligibility rate at least 10 points higher than Louisville’s eighth graders.
Louisville also should also have enjoyed a strong advantage because of the relatively high percentage of whites that attend its schools.
Whites score higher than other racial groups. No other participating district exceeded Louisville’s 53 percent white rate in fourth grade. In fact, the next closest district, Charlotte, only had 36 percent whites in its testing sample. Things were a bit more spread out in eighth grade where Louisville again had the leading percentage of whites in the testing mix – 55 percent. Charlotte was again second, with an even lower 32 percent whites in its testing sample.
These numbers are not surprising given the Jefferson County School System’s large geographic size that encompasses large suburban areas along with inner city areas. In contrast, most large city school systems do not contain significant upscale suburbs-like areas.
Based on its advantages in both poverty rates and its racial mix, I expected Louisville to walk away with the Trial Urban District Assessment. It didn’t.
I’ll have more once I get a chance to review the extensive reports available.
Parents please take a few moments to sign the petition for Charter Schools in Kentucky at putkidsfirstky.org.
The petition asked legislators to support Representative Brad Montell’s new bill, House Bill 79. The bill will allow for the creation of charter schools in Kentucky.
Give Kentucky’s kids a chance for a better education by signing today.
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