A new tool from the Education Trust allows quick state-to-state comparisons of 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores and changes over time from 2003 to 2015.
Of course, as we have pointed out before, it’s essential when doing such comparisons to break the scores out by race, which the new tool allows, in order to reach accurate and credible conclusions.
Here are some interesting comparisons I worked up that compare Kentucky’s white and African-American students’ NAEP scores in math and reading over time to those for Arizona, a charter school-rich state.
(Note: On these graphs, higher performance plots in the upper right quadrant, the place where you find Arizona’s (AZ) dot.)
This first graph shows how Arizona’s white eighth-grade students posted a higher math score than Kentucky’s white eighth-graders in 2015 (about 297 versus Kentucky’s 281 score, as plotted along the vertical axis) and more improvement over time between 2003 and 2015 (about a 14-point improvement versus Kentucky’s 4-point gain, as plotted on the horizontal axis).
Overall, charter rich Arizona was both a “Higher Performing” and “Higher Improving” state, while Kentucky fell in what the Education Trust shows as the “Lower Performing – Lower Improving” quadrant.
Now, here is how both states’ African-American students did on NAEP Grade 8 math.
Once again, Kentucky falls in the “Lower Performing – Lower Improving” part of the graph while Arizona is classed as “Higher Performing – Higher Improving.”
Of course, Kentucky reportedly does better on NAEP reading. Click the “Read more” link to see if that reputation holds out for the Grade 8 NAEP Reading results for Kentucky versus Arizona.
Once again, when we look at white eighth grade students’ reading performance on the NAEP, Kentucky falls in the “Lower Performing – Lower Improving” part of the graph while charter school rich Arizona is in the “Higher Performing – Higher Improving” zone.
Here is the situation for eighth grade African-American reading in the two states. The performance is closer here, but Arizona’s African-Americans still edge us out with both higher scores and a faster rate of improvement between 2003 and 2015.
By the way, there are no Hispanic scores in the Ed Trust web tool for Kentucky because the Bluegrass State had so few of them back in 2003 that the NAEP couldn’t even report decently accurate scores for this racial group. That stands in very sharp contrast to Arizona, where the NAEP Data Explorer web tool shows in the eighth grade NAEP math assessments that Hispanics made up 47 percent of the entire public school enrollment in Arizona in 2015, up sharply from 37 percent in 2003. White enrollment in Arizona fell from 50 percent to just 39 percent in the same time interval, creating big challenges for educators in that state.
By comparison, Kentucky’s racial mix changed little between 2003 and 2015. Whites in Kentucky made up 88 percent of the public school enrollment back in 2003 and still accounted for 82 percent of the enrollment in eighth grade in 2015.
Oh, yeah, you can bet that many of the Hispanics in Arizona in 2015 spoke English as a second language, too.
While information is limited (no African-American charter scores are available), the NAEP Data Explorer also shows that both Arizona whites and Hispanics who were enrolled in charter schools in 2015 outscored their non-charter school counterparts by notable amounts. For whites, the difference in eight grade math scores was 308 for charter students versus 295 for the non-charter whites. For Hispanics, the difference was 280 versus 272.
To be sure, far more stable student demographics over time should have given Kentucky a real edge over Arizona in the comparisons above, but it didn’t work out that way. It looks like charter-rich Arizona has figured out better ways to serve student groups than Kentucky has, and it looks like charters are a notable part of that answer.