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

I’ve been writing about how Kentucky’s white students performed on the National Assessment of Educational Progress Math Assessments. Today, we’ll look at how the state’s white fourth graders fared in reading, which is the state’s best performance area.

Figure 1 compares the NAEP Grade 4 Reading Assessment scores for white students across all the states. Don’t forget, we are looking at only white scores because this is a fairer way to compare results across states. This is in line with recommendations found in every NAEP Report Card since 2005, recommendations commonly ignored by other, less statistically valid ranking schemes Kentuckians have been exposed to.


Figure 1, which covers the latest, 2015 data, shows Kentucky sitting about in the middle for performance, with only nine states scoring statistically significantly higher and 10 scoring statistically significantly lower.

Figure 1

G4 NAEP Read Map for Whites 2015

Figure 2 shows how Kentucky performed against other states in 2013. We only statistically significantly outperformed two states and in turn were outperformed by 20 states in that year, so the 2015 results show notable improvement.

Figure 2

NAEP Comparison Map G4 Read

Figure 3 shows the 2011 results, which actually look a lot better than the 2013 results. In 2011 Kentucky’s white students statistically significantly outscored six states for NAEP Grade 4 Reading and in turn were bested by whites in 18 states.

Figure 3

G4 NAEP Reading Whites 2011

As with our past blogs in this series, I summarize the results from Figures 1 to 3 in Table 1. 

Table 1

G4 NAEP Reading for Whites 2011 to 2015

Clearly, the results from 2015 are better than either of the previous years listed in Table 1.

Still if you look at results generated with the NAEP Data Explorer’s “Significance Test” “Comparison” option, in the 2015 NAEP Grade 4 Reading Assessment Kentucky is listed in 27th place for white student scores, still not quite at the mid-point for all the states although there are all sorts of ties in the data, as shown by Figure 1.

I also looked at the results for school lunch eligible white students. We really can’t glean much from this because the statistical sampling errors create a huge number of statistical ties. Figure 4 shows the results for 2013, the last year that school lunch data in NAEP is relatively trustworthy for use as a proxy for poverty, as I have explained in the earlier blogs in this series.

Figure 4

G4 NAEP Reading Whites Lunch 2013

Figure 5 shows the data from 2011.

Figure 5

G4 NAEP Reading Whites Lunch 2011

The data in Figures 4 and 5 are summarized in Table 2

Table 2

G4 NAEP Reading for Whites Lunch 2011 to 2015

As you can see in Table 2, there actually was a notable performance decline for Kentucky’s poor whites versus their counterparts in other states between the 2011 and 2013 NAEP Grade 4 Reading Assessments. In 2011 Kentucky’s school lunch eligible whites outscored their counterparts in 10 other states by a statistically significant amount. By 2013, Kentucky’s lunch eligible whites didn’t outscore their counterparts in any other state.

By the way, according to the NAEP Data Explorer’s “Statistical Significance” testing tools, in 2011 Kentucky was listed in 20th place for its lunch eligible whites’ performance. That slipped notably to 29th place in 2013 due to the situation shown in Figure 4 and Table 2.

This is not exactly a ringing endorsement for the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts, which had been in Kentucky’s classrooms for almost two years or maybe somewhat more by the time the NAEP was administered around the February-March timeframe of 2013.

By the way, returning to earlier comments about the results for all whites in each state from the NAEP Data Explorer’s Significance Test tools, recall that in the 2015 NAEP Grade 4 Reading Assessment Kentucky’s whites ranked in 27th place. But, that is certainly better than the state’s eighth grade listing for whites on reading, which as of 2015 is way down at 37th place. That brings us to our last area for analysis – NAEP Grade 8 Reading, which I’ll cover in a future blog.

For now, just note that the NAEP Data Explorer shows that even in Kentucky’s strongest performance area, Grade 4 reading, the state does not quite make it to the middle of the stack for its dominant racial group, whites. That is true whether or not we look at those whites in poverty.