Let’s rank Kentucky’s NAEP scores intelligently – Grade 8 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 eighth graders fared in reading. While the state looks its best on fourth grade reading, we will see a lot of that reading advantage is lost by the time our students reach the eighth grade.

Figure 1 compares the NAEP Grade 8 Reading Assessment scores for white students across all the states for 2015. Don’t forget, we look at only white scores because this is a fairer way to compare results across states due to serious achievement gaps and dramatically different racial demographics across states. Breaking the analysis out by race 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 and currently are being exposed to.

Figure 1, which covers the latest, 2015 data, shows Kentucky hovering below the middle for performance, with 17 states scoring statistically significantly higher and only four states scoring statistically significantly lower.

Figure 1

G8 Read Whites 2015

Figure 2 shows how Kentucky performed against other states in 2013. Performance shown for 2013 is definitely better than the state produced two years later in 2015. Only 14 states did better than Kentucky’s white eighth graders in 2013 while five performed statistically significantly lower.

Figure 2

G8 Read Whites 2013

Figure 3 shows the 2011 NAEP Grade 8 Reading results for white students. Kentucky looked even better in 2011 than 2013. In 2011 Kentucky’s white students statistically significantly outscored seven states for NAEP Grade 8 Reading and in turn were bested by whites in only 9 states.

Figure 3

G8 NAEP Reading Whites 2011

Again, I summarize the results from Figures 1 to 3 in Table 1.

Table 1

G8 NAEP Reading for Whites 2011 to 2015

This paints a clear picture of recent decline for Kentucky. It stands in sharp contrast compared to what we saw for fourth grade reading.

Kentucky’s white eighth grade reading performance has constantly decayed since 2011 compared to other states. Kentucky consistently outscored fewer states as time progressed from 2011 to 2015. Kentucky consistently was outperformed by more states as time progressed after 2011, as well.

Table 1 tells us that the Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts, which are still the current standards in Kentucky impacting reading, could be problematic. Kentucky has more experience with Common Core than any other state and certainly has lost ground for reading in the eighth grade since those standards came to Kentucky’s classrooms around the 2011-12 school term.

As with the previous blogs, 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 the school lunch data collected by NAEP was relatively trustworthy for use as a proxy for poverty, as I have explained in earlier blogs during the past week.

Figure 4

G8 NAEP Reading Whites Lunch 2013

As you can see, there isn’t much differentiation between states in the data, with Kentucky statistically in a tie for Grade 8 White Reading Scores with almost every state in the nation.

Figure 5 shows the data from 2011.

Figure 5

G8 NAEP Reading Whites Lunch 2011

Once again, there isn’t much differentiation between the states in the eighth grade school lunch eligible whites’ scores.

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

Table 2

G8 NAEP Reading for Whites Lunch 2011 to 2015

As we saw for the all-white results in Table 1, there was a decay in Kentucky’s school lunch eligible whites’ eighth grade reading performance across the last two years where the school lunch data collected by the NAEP can provide a reasonable proxy for poverty. Again, this isn’t an endorsement for Common Core, though the data trail across only two years is rather thin, of course.

Next time, we’ll look at how the NAEP Data Explorer ranked Kentucky’s whites for fourth and eighth grade math and reading in 2015. You will see that for Kentucky’s dominant racial group (About 80 percent of Kentucky’s public school students are white), claims our performance has risen to the middle of the pack don’t hold up.