New results from ACT testing of all Kentucky’s 11th grade students expose enormous gaps in performance in Kentucky’s high schools.
The two tables below were developed from an Excel file from the Kentucky Department of Education.
The tables show the ACT math performance for the 20 best and 20 worst high schools in the state. Each table shows the percentage of students in each school that reached the ACT Benchmark score of 22 in math. That score indicates students are likely to get passing grades in a credit bearing freshman college algebra course.
In the top 20 listing, note that school size isn’t a terribly important indicator of performance. That goes against ideology that was heavily pushed in some quarters that smaller schools are better. For example, both the very large Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and the tiny Paintsville High had virtually identical success in preparing their students for college level math work.
On a very disappointing note, observe that only a handful of schools in the state prepare more than half of their students for college math. That’s lousy performance any way you look at it.
At the other end of the spectrum, some of Kentucky’s high schools do an absolutely deplorable job in teaching math to all students. In some cases, none of the students in these schools are being adequately prepared for this key college subject. This means all of those schools’ graduates are locked out of the critical Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics career fields. That’s not just bad for the students – it is also bad for Kentucky’s economy.
Notice as well that school size doesn’t seem to have much relationship to the way math is instructed in these bottom-performing schools, either. Tiny schools are interspersed with much larger enrollment schools, just as happens with the list of the top performers.
First, it is painfully evident that where a child goes to school can have an enormous impact on learning.
Second, it is also evident that nearly two decades after the start of KERA, the promise of high performance for all our children is woefully not being kept. When students are trapped in schools where not even a single child is being adequately prepared for college, something is terribly wrong, and parents badly need more options on where they can have their children educated.
Third, the ACT results provide compelling evidence that Louisville’s school busing plans have been a failure. Louisville schools are liberally located in both the top 20 and bottom 20 lists above. If busing worked, the performance of schools in Louisville would be roughly equal. It most definitely isn’t.
The courts looking at Louisville need to come to grips with the very evident truth in the new ACT data. Busing will not fix bad schools. Busing just perpetuates the existence of those bad schools while they continue to mess up student lives. The only difference is that with busing, a slightly different, bused in group of children suffers. But, the education failure continues.