Kentucky’s Overall Progress on NAEP an Issue Again

At today’s meeting of the Kentucky Legislature’s Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, the subject of Kentucky’s progress on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) came up again. So, I will be resurrecting and updating some earlier blogs that already deal with this information.

To start, let’s look at the earliest and latest available NAEP scores for all students in Kentucky for each of the areas where NAEP has conducted state-level testing.

This first graph shows the data.

Most Recent and Earliest NAEP P Rates by Subject for Kentucky to 2015

First, a few details about the graph above. It shows the “All Student” NAEP proficiency rates for Kentucky students from the most recent round of NAEP testing in these subjects and the earliest available proficiency rate and test year for each subject.

For example, the first bar, in blue, shows that 40 percent of Kentucky’s public school population tested proficient or better in Grade 4 Reading in the 2015 NAEP. Added on the bar is the proficiency rate from the first time the NAEP examined fourth grade reading in Kentucky, which was 1992. The state’s reading proficiency rate that year was 23 percent.

What can we project from this data?

Over the past 23 years from 1992 to 2015, Kentucky’s fourth grade reading proficiency increased by 17 percentage points from 23 to 40 percent. That works out to a rate of improvement of only 0.74 percentage point per year. If we continue to improve at that rate, we won’t reach 80 percent proficiency for reading in Kentucky until 53 years from now.

Got that? We are still half a century plus away from what I think most would consider a minimally acceptable reading level in Kentucky’s fourth grade classrooms.

Using a similar approach to that from the fourth grade example above, this table shows the projections to an 80 percent proficiency rate for Kentucky’s students for math and reading in grades four and eight.

Years for Kentucky to Reach Proficiency in NAEP G4 and G8 Reading and Math

The message in this table is pretty grim. After 25 years of Kentucky education reforms, we are a very long way from reaching minimally acceptable proficiency rates in any subject shown. If our current rate of progress continues, we are going to need more than a full additional century before our eighth grade students handle math at what I think many would consider a very minimally acceptable level of proficiency.

Now you understand why I get a bit impatient with Kentucky’s education boosters when they talk about “all the progress we’ve made.”

I’m sorry, but no state in this country has made a lot of progress in education in the past quarter century, and don’t forget that the US is falling behind in international testing.

To be sure, Kentucky has made a little progress, as the graph in this blog shows, but that progress has come at a snail’s pace. Sadly, I don’t think the foreign competition our kids will have to face as adults will allow us to just slowly amble down the education improvement trail for the next 100 years or so. Those foreign countries are going to bury our economy if we don’t get this fixed, and soon.

Tech Notes:

The NAEP data come from the NAEP Data Explorer and the 2015 NAEP Report Card “Data Quick View” supporting Excel spreadsheets.