The new 2019 NAEP scores have been released, and I’ve already covered several interesting things with a series of blogs on October 30, 2019 with the first one titled New NAEP results for Kentucky also disappoint – Grade 4 Reading. That series also examined Grade 4 math and Grade 8 Reading and Grade 8 Math. A second series of blogs started with NAEP 2019 – How does Kentucky really compare to other states? Grade 4 Reading, which showed comparisons to other states for Grade 4 and 8 NAEP Reading and Math.

Now, it’s time to look at how Kentucky’s white minus black student proficiency rate gaps, often called the achievement gaps, look.

Figure 1 shows the NAEP Grade 4 Reading proficiency rates for whites and blacks for all the years since NAEP started state-level testing in this grade and subject. The proficiency rates and information about statistical significance were obtained from the NAEP Data Explorer web tool.

**Figure 1**

Figure 1 first needs a little explaining. The boxed numbers above the blue line show the white students’ proficiency rates in each testing year. The boxed numbers below the orange line show black students’ proficiency rates for each testing year.

The NAEP is a sampled test, and there are sampling errors in all the scores. When a given year’s proficiency rate is statistically significantly different from the 2019 rate, it is shown in larger, bold italic typeface.

For whites, proficiency rates from 1992 to 2005 were statistically significantly lower than the 2019 white reading proficiency rate of 39%. On the other hand, the white 2015 NAEP Grade 4 Reading proficiency rate was statistically significantly higher than the 2019 rate, so it also appears in a larger, bold italic typeface.

For blacks, no prior year’s proficiency rate is statistically significantly different from the 2019 rate of 14%.

The last set of information shows the white minus black proficiency rate gaps. Each year’s gap is shown by a number in the middle of a double-headed arrow between the white and black rates for each year. The gap data also is impacted by statistical sampling errors, so while the gap nominally appears to have grown from 16 points to 25 points between 1992 and 2019, in fact the best we can really say is that the gaps are all statistical ties – in other words, after allowing for the NAEP’s possible measurement errors, there has been no measurable improvement in the Kentucky NAEP Grade 4 Reading achievement gap since 1992.

One more point: the superscript number 1 for the 1992 and 1994 years indicate that testing accommodations were not allowed for those tests. Since then, students with disabilities have been allowed to participate on the NAEP using most, sometimes all, of the accommodations they use in day-to-day classes and on Kentucky’s state assessments.

So, here are some messages from Figure 1 for NAEP Grade 4 Reading in Kentucky:

- Given the measuring limitations from the NAEP’s statistical sampling approach, the assessment shows no detectable reading progress for Kentucky’s black students from 2019 all the way back to 1992.

- Since 2015 white Grade 4 reading proficiency in Kentucky has definitely declined.

- Black reading proficiency appears to have declined about the same amount as the white decline since 2015, but due to larger sampling errors, we cannot call that score drop statistically significant.

- Except for 2015, which appears to be a statistical anomaly, white Grade 4 reading scores for Kentucky have been flat since 2007.

To see how the Kentucky gaps, look for the other subjects and grades tested, just click the “Read more” link.

**Kentucky’s white minus black achievement gaps from NAEP – Grade 4 Math**

Figure 2 shows the white and black proficiency rates on NAEP Grade 4 Math over the years along with the white minus black achievement gap data. The coding for statistical significant scores is the same as in Figure 1.

**Figure 2**

There is some progress shown here between the 2019 proficiency rates and rates from 2007 and earlier for both races, but the 2019 proficiency rates for both whites and blacks are not statistically significantly different from any rates from 2009 or later. Per the NAEP, given its measurement precision due to its sampling errors, Kentucky’s math performance for both races has been flat since 2009. Also, even though it clearly takes a big change in gaps for a gap difference to be statistically significant, the 2019 gap is statistically significantly larger than the gap back in 1992 even with those NAEP limitations. This gap has definitely grown.

So, here are some messages from Figure 2 for NAEP Grade 4 Math in Kentucky:

- Both whites and black have made some progress in math since the early days of state NAEP testing. However,

- Both white and black math proficiency rates have been flat since 2009.

- The achievement gap in 2019 is definitely larger than back in 1992.

**Kentucky’s white minus black achievement gaps from NAEP – Grade 8 Reading**

Now let’s look at NAEP Grade 8 Reading for Kentucky. This testing didn’t start until 1998, by the way. Figure 3 shows the information.

**Figure 3**

None of the earlier gaps are statistically significantly different from the 2019 gap of 22 points and the 2019 black NAEP Grade 8 Math proficiency rate of 14% isn’t significantly different from any prior year’s black proficiency rate, either.

There are some interesting up and down trends in the white scores. While the white 2019 score is not statistically significantly different from the 1998 score, it does differ significantly from scores in 2007 and 2013. However, the improvement from 2007 to 2013 in Kentucky’s NAEP Grade 8 Reading proficiency rate for whites has largely been reversed in recent years. The 2019 rate is definitely lower than the 2013 rate.

So, here are some messages from Figure 3 for NAEP Grade 8 Reading in Kentucky:

- There has been no measurable improvement in Kentucky’s black Grade 8 reading scores since the first administration of this state assessment in 1998, 21 years ago.

- The achievement gap hasn’t budged perceptibly, either

- Whites in Kentucky have shown up and down trends on the NAEP Grade 8 Reading assessment, but the trend since 2013 has been in the wrong direction.

**Kentucky’s white minus black achievement gaps from NAEP – Grade 8 Math**

Let’s finish up our gaps discussion with a look at what has happened to Kentucky’s white and black students on the NAEP Grade 8 Math assessments. Figure 4 has the information.

**Figure 4**

It is clear that the white 2019 proficiency rate of 32% isn’t significantly different from rates all the way back to 2007. So, their performance in the past 12 years is essentially flat.

The black 2019 proficiency of just 11% is also flat with previous rates all the way back to 2000, once the sampling errors in NAEP are honored. This flat trend in black proficiency might extend as far back as 1996, but data issues with the 1996 NAEP prevent the calculation of statistical significance.

That inability to determine statistical significance also pertains to the gap for 1996. However, given the fact that a later, 15-point gap in 2005 is not statistically significantly different from the 21-point gap in 2019, it is probable that the 1996 gap is also not really notably different from the 2019 gap.

However, the achievement gap has definitely grown from the small gaps posted in both 1990 and 1992.

So, here are some messages from Figure 4 for NAEP Grade 8 Math in Kentucky:

- Black Grade 8 NAEP Math proficiency in Kentucky is statistically flat back to at least 2000.

- White proficiency in Grade 8 NAEP Math is flat back to 2007.

- The achievement gap has definitely grown since the early days of NAEP state testing for Grade 8 Math.

So, in general, the 2019 NAEP doesn’t paint a happy picture for Kentucky. Progress has generally been flat for at least a decade in every case and for black students in reading there hasn’t been any progress since the first year the NAEP tested that subject in both Grade 4 and Grade 8. Considering the quite different picture in Mississippi I wrote about yesterday, it is clear things don’t have to be like this. We should closely examine what is happening in Mississippi, because they are figuring something out that so far is eluding Kentucky’s educators.