Education Trust gets it right about achievement gaps. Their new report, “Making Sure All Children Matter: Getting School Accountability Signals Right,” says:
“Even the strongest critics of No Child Left Behind will acknowledge that the law did one thing right — create an expectation that in order to be considered successful, a school had to be successfully educating all groups of students.”
However, that expectation was cast aside when the US Department of Education started to issue waivers from No Child. EdTrust points out:
“In issuing waivers from that law, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan allowed states to walk away from that framework. To obtain a waiver, he required states to set improvement goals for each group of students that would result in gap narrowing. But, in a move that had civil rights advocates shaking their heads, performance against those goals did not have to matter at all in school accountability ratings.”
To bolster their claim, the new EdTrust report examines recent assessment and accountability evidence from three states – Kentucky is one of them. EdTrust reports:
“What we’ve found is that school ratings are not powerful signals of the performance of every individual group of kids. In each state, schools are getting top ratings despite low performance for some groups.”
In this EdTrust graphic, we see that performance of African-Americans in Kentucky’s top performing schools is actually worse than white performance in Kentucky’s very lowest performing schools.
This makes EdTrust’s concerns very clear. Note that the African American proficiency rate for math in Kentucky’s “Distinguished” rated schools is 35 percent, which is three points lower than the white proficiency rate in Kentucky’s “Needs Improvement” schools. As EdTrust puts it:
“A Distinguished rating tells us something very different about the performance of African American students than it does about the performance of white students.”
Yes, unfortunately, that is true. A school’s whites might post a Distinguished performance while its African American students actually are doing something far less impressive.
Of course, this concern is nothing new to our readers. Our December 2013 report on “Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning School Assessment Program: Can we trust what it’s telling us about schools?” talks about EdTrusts concerns along with other problems that need to be addressed with Kentucky’s Unbridled Learning school accountability system. Still, it’s nice when the nationally respected Education Trust folks agree with us.
Now, let’s see if the state’s education leaders are listening.