Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence

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For some key groups, but not Black students, Kentucky results are better than many states

In last fall’s Top 20 report, we noted how Kentucky educational results compared to other states, including rankings on 2017 NAEP assessments of reading and math and 2015 NAEP science. Since real excellence needs to include students of all backgrounds, here comes a look at NAEP results for four student groups that have long been underserved.

First, here are the scale scores, showing clearly that Kentucky achievement gaps continue to be disturbing. Students with identified disabilities have the lowest reading and math scores results of the groups shown, while Black students have the lowest science results. Hispanic students and students eligible for free or reduced-price meals are also consistently behind. (In this table, the color coding gives a rough sense of which results are farthest from those for all students.)

Let’s also look at how those results compare to results for the same groups in other states. This can’t make any of our weaknesses okay, but it can give us a sense of whether we’re missing out on strategies that work for other states. (Here, the color coding uses green to identify Top 20 results and orange to identify bottom 20 results)

For students with disabilities and for Hispanic students, Kentucky’s results are consistently in the top half of the states. For students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, we’re in the top half except for grade 8 mathematics. Again, that doesn’t keep the weaknesses from being major problems, but it does suggest that we’re doing that’s like other states and sometimes a bit better. In fact, our rankings are better for these underserved groups than for students overall, and we’re even at the top of some of the science rankings. Strategically, that means our next improvements may need to come from innovating beyond what other states have tried.

For African American students, the rankings show something different. We’re in the bottom half in grade 8 reading and in grade 4 and grade 8 math, with that second math result as the lowest position on the charts. For that one group, Kentucky is doing worse than most states on multiple assessments.

That’s a stand-out result. Every group that is left behind matters, and every student’s development deserves systematic attention, deep support, and highly responsive instruction. But as we work to deliver for each and every child, these results for Black students deserve an additional share of our concern.

Since 1983, the Prichard Committee has worked to study priority issues, inform the public and policy makers about best practices and engage citizens, business leaders, families, students, and other stakeholders in a shared mission to move Kentucky to the top tier of all states for education excellence and equity for all children, from their earliest years through postsecondary education.