Let’s rank Kentucky’s NAEP scores intelligently – Grade 4 Math

I posted on Tuesday about how Kentucky’s white students performed on the National Assessment of Educational Progress Grade 8 Math Assessment. Today, we’ll look at how the state’s white fourth graders fared.

The map in Figure 1 shows how our white fourth grade NAEP math results in 2015 matched up against white fourth graders in other states. We now outscore three states, up from only one in 2013 (see Figure 2). Still, we are not exactly doing dramatically better.

Figure 1

G4 Math Map for Whites 2015

This looks better than our results from 2013, shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2

NAEP Comparison Map for G4 Math

This third figure shows how Kentucky’s white fourth graders performed on the 2011 NAEP math assessment.

Figure 3

G4 NAEP Math White Map

Table 1 summarizes the data in Figures 1 to 3.

Table 1

G4 Math for Kentucky Vs Other States

Is the better performance in the fourth grade because Kentucky got better, or because other states got worse? This next table, which compares Kentucky’s white Grade 4 NAEP Math Scale Scores to the national public school average for white students, provides insight.

Table 2

G4 White Math Scale Scores for KY and Nation 2009 to 2015

As you can see, the white national average scores dropped two points between 2013 and 2015 while Kentucky’s stayed flat. The appearance of better performance for Kentucky isn’t because Kentucky did better; it is because the national situation got worse. That nationwide decline created a lot of statistical ties for our fourth grade students in 2015, but this is not due to an improvement in Kentucky.

Also, Kentucky’s 2015 score remains statistically significantly lower than the national average for whites.

Also, even in Figure 1 it is clear that Kentucky does not perform at about the national average since 24 states scored statistically significantly higher.

Now, let’s see if our school lunch eligible whites did much better. Again, we will only be able to look at 2013 and 2011 data because the school lunch data for 2015 is no longer a useful proxy for student poverty due to the recent addition of the Community Eligibility Program where even the richest students in a school might now be included in the lunch-based statistics.

Figure 4

G4 NAEP Math Whites Eligible for Lunch Only 2013

As you can see, Kentucky ties a lot of states in 2013 for white fourth grade NAEP math performance. However, 20 states definitely outperformed us while our poor whites cannot claim they outscored even one other state’s whites by a statistically significant amount. Basically, the NAEP does not provide us with very much definition here.

Now, let’s look at how Kentucky’s poor whites compared in 2011.

Figure 5

G4 Math Whites Lunch Eligible

Here we see in 2011 that Kentucky did statistically significantly outscore one state, West Virginia. So, we lost that advantage over one state in 2013.

On the other hand, 22 states significantly outscored Kentucky in 2011 and only 20 did in 2013.

Overall, there really wasn’t much change, as Table 3 summarizes.

Table 3

G4 Math for Kentucky Vs Other States, Lunch Only

And, once again, Kentucky hovers around somewhere below the average in performance.

Don’t forget, a lot of states only started to really do Common Core State Standards in the past two years. Could it be that this has impacted performance of formerly better-performing states, leveling the playing field for Kentucky by dumbing down the rest of the participants? If that is what Common Core produces, I don’t think it will last very long, at least outside of Kentucky.

Regardless, referring back to the first blog in this series, after 25 years of expensive KERA reforms, only 40 percent of Kentucky’s fourth grade students scored proficient or more on the 2015 NAEP math assessment.

In addition, the somewhat better advantage Kentucky’s fourth grade white students show for NAEP math compared to other states almost totally vanishes by the eighth grade, as our blog on the eighth grade NAEP discussed.

Why is the Bluegrass State largely losing this slight advantage between Grades 4 and 8?

And, can Kentucky really claim to rank about average on NAEP when so many of the state’s dominance racial group clearly score well below average?