As we get closer to a charter school system in Kentucky, opponents of school choice are ramping up their largely self-serving attacks to a fever pitch in order to either derail this important effort altogether or to load the legislation with poison pills that will insure Bluegrass State charters fail.
This past Sunday, for example, the Kentucky Enquirer’s print edition carried an Op-Ed by Kentucky Education Association president Stephanie Winkler that rehashed a number of such charter school fables, raising concerns about the objectivity of this teacher leader.
For example, Winkler said:
“Despite the continuing narrative of ‘failure,’ the truth is, when measured by student achievement, Kentucky’s schools perform remarkably well under difficult circumstances.”
Check out the graphic below. It is similar to the one I showed you a few days ago that only covered black student scores, but this time the scores are the overall averages for all Kentucky students.
The graphic shows the earliest and latest available proficiency rates for all Kentucky students on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for fourth and eighth grade reading and math.
For example, over the general time period that KERA has been in force, Kentucky’s overall average fourth grade reading proficiency rate only improved from 23 to 40 percent on NAEP. In other words, over a period of about a quarter of a century, the state only raised its fourth grade reading proficiency rate by a mere 17 percentage points. As of 2015, only well under half of the state’s fourth graders read at a proficient level.
At this rate of progress, the table in the graphic shows it will take Kentucky more than another half a century before its fourth grade students reach an 80 percent reading proficiency rate!
Of course, the situation looks far worse when we only examine the eighth grade black scores. As I discussed in that earlier blog, which has a similar graphic to the one above, the news is so bad for Kentucky’s black students that even Winkler has to admit it.
However, Winker offers no solutions for Kentucky’s serious achievement gap problem that has persisted through more than 25 years of Kentucky education reform, a period when Kentucky more than doubled education spending even after inflation is considered.
In the end, Winkler just asserts that one education reform that is helping disadvantaged students elsewhere, namely charter schools, is somehow not an answer for Kentucky.
Well, this isn’t 1990 anymore. Kentucky’s education establishment promised us from the start of KERA in 1990 that all students would learn at high levels, but it’s never happened in Ms. Winkler’s union members’ classrooms. Furthermore, Kentucky’s NAEP trends show it isn’t likely to happen soon, if ever, should Kentucky continue to rely only on its existing school system to fix the problem.
It’s way past time to still listen to people who talk about all the supposed progress in Kentucky. The truth is there simply hasn’t been much progress, and the NAEP clearly shows that. And, it is time to try something that works – elsewhere. Our kids deserve no less.
By the way, Winkler actually mentions some NAEP data in her Op-Ed, claiming that overall Kentucky scores above the national NAEP averages for fourth grade reading and math and for eighth grade reading, too. But, she is playing games with us using a well-known statistical trap in NAEP’s overall average scores. The game she is playing actually compares a lot of Kentucky white students’ scores to scores for minority kids and even English language learners in other states. It is a highly misleading approach that we have written about many times before such as here and in this blog about eighth grade reading for Kentucky’s white students. This second blog shows Kentucky’s whites actually only statistically significantly outscored whites in just 7 other states in 2011 and then the situation decayed to us only outscoring 4 states in 2015.
The truth is that once you start doing state to state NAEP comparisons on a more apples to apples basis, Winkler’s arguments in this area don’t look so credible, either.