There is a discussion brewing in social media about the large number of Kentucky schools that seem to have escaped any flags for having rather large achievement gaps between some student groups. I took a look at the gaps for white minus black reading proficiency rates in all our schools and found a notable number of schools have gaps that seem large enough to be of some concern.
Consider the high school situation shown in Table 1.
All of the listed schools have some pretty serious gaps.
In fact, out of the 75 high schools with usable data, 57 – or 76% – had gaps over 20 percentage points.
It is important to note that black, and in rare cases, white enrollment in a school is so small (less than 10 students) that scores for that group are not reported. In general, this means many Kentucky schools simply don’t have the data publicly available to examine their achievement gaps for whites and blacks. Outside of the 75 high schools that had scores to compute a white minus black reading gap, more than 150 other Kentucky high schools didn’t have the data available and we know nothing about possible gap issues for these two racial groups in those schools.
But, for the high schools that do have data, it is clear the reading proficiency rate gaps are highly problematic.
Now, here is something for everyone to consider: The new Kentucky School Report Cards allow you to drill down through a couple of web pages and eventually find out whether a school met the Kentucky Department of Education’s official threshold to report “SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT GAPS.”
But, when I did that for the Bardstown High School (bottom of Table 1 above), it only reported a significant gap for “Economically Disadvantaged compared to Non-Economically Disadvantaged” students. Do you think a gap for white minus black reading of 35 percentage points isn’t significant?
Or, move up in Table 1 to Lafayette High School. It’s white minus black achievement gap for reading of 44.7 percentage points is also not highlighted as significant in that school’s report card. The school does get flagged for other achievement gaps like “English Learners plus Monitored compared to Non-English Learners plus Monitored,” “Economically Disadvantaged compared to Non-Economically Disadvantaged” and “Disability compared to Non-Disability,” but that big white minus black gap has been ignored.
It turns out that the top school in the high school list, McCracken County High School, does get flagged for “African American compared to White,” but it took a gap exceeding 50 points for that to happen. There also were flags for several schools listed just below McCracken County High.
However, even Greenwood High School, despite a 47.5-point white minus black reading proficiency rate gap, does not get flagged.
That just doesn’t seem right.
There is more to the story, which you can access through the “Read more” link.
Table 2 shows the top 20 elementary schools for white minus black reading proficiency rate gaps.
As you can see, these gaps are all quite large, generally running even higher than the high school gaps. In fact, the vast majority of Kentucky’s 247 elementary schools that had both white and black reading scores published, 126 of them – or 51% – had an achievement gap of 20 percentage points or more.
Things are tough for the state’s middle schools, as well, as you can see in the next table.
Out of a total of 130 middle schools with data for both races, 78, that’s 60%, had gaps exceeding 20 percentage points.
That just doesn’t seem right.
In fact, any gap for whites and blacks exceeding 10 points seems worthy of concern to me. Maybe even smaller gaps are problematic, too.
But, ignoring gaps like some I highlighted above just isn’t right.
BTW, you can access an Excel spreadsheet listing all the schools that had black and white scores reported by clicking here.