This is is the final blog with academic data in our series comparing performance on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) for school choice rich Florida and other states including school choice poor Kentucky. There will be one more blog with some nonacademic information of interest.
We are looking at the NAEP results for Grade 4 reading. Today we concentrate on scores for students who were eligible for the free and reduced cost school lunch program in each state. These students come from low-income families.
Unfortunately, we can’t go all the way back to the early 1990s for this comparison because the NAEP didn’t collect information about school lunch participation on its early state NAEP assessments. There also are some concerns about the consistency of state-to-state reporting of school lunch eligibility in 2017, so we will look at the picture from 2003 to 2017. We’ll include 2013 results, as well, because that was before a new school lunch program called the Community Eligibility Program began to create issues for using lunch eligibility as a proxy for student poverty in different states.
Figure 1 shows how the NAEP looked for fourth grade blacks in each state back in 2003. Note that Kentucky’s lunch eligible students statistically tied Florida’s lunch eligible students in 2003 and so did lunch eligible students in 26 other states plus those in the District of Columbia.
Now flash forward to the picture in 2013, shown in Figure 2. Again, this is the last year we can be confident that the new school lunch Community Eligibility Program does not interfere with comparing state lunch data.
Once more, Florida has done some serious moving up. Now, no state outscores Florida when we consider students eligible for school lunches, and instead of being behind, Florida has passed by Kentucky, too. While Florida only outscored 16 states in 2003 for NAEP Grade 4 reading for school lunch students, in 2013 that state outscored 45 others plus the District of Columbia. That’s some really good progress.
With some feelings of trepidation, I will show you the 2017 school lunch situation as the NAEP reports it.
As you can see, the picture isn’t very different from 2013. Florida, already well ahead in 2013, moved up a bit more.
While a lot of factors could have played into the Florida flip for lunch eligible students, you have to consider that Florida’s selection of many school choice options certainly didn’t impede this development.
Meanwhile, with school choice essentially absent in Kentucky for the entire period from 2003 to 2017, you have to seriously question if the Bluegrass State’s decisions to date about choice have been a disservice to our kids.
Tech Note: Figure 1 was assembled with the NAEP Data Explorer web tool.