Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Kentucky's Poor Students' NAEP Performance

I haven’t spent much time looking at how the educational achievement of Kentucky’s poor kids compare to poor kids in other states.

For one thing, the data on poor student performance isn’t as extensive as I’d like. The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) does list separate state scores for students eligible for the federal school lunch program – the usual proxy for student poverty in education studies – but only since 1996 or 1998, depending upon the academic subject.

Also, none of the publicly available NAEP data sets list rates of exclusion and accommodation for the poor students in each state. State to state demographic differences for poor students are not publicly available, either. Those are important issues in any NAEP analysis, as I have pointed out before.

Because NAEP didn’t report the information before 1996, until recently there wasn’t much of a NAEP trend line for poor students to study. In education a trend line is normally far more revealing than single point-in-time data. Despite these issues, Susan Weston at the Prichard Committee just posted a Blog on “Student performance and low family income,” so, I decided to take a look at how Kentucky’s poor students rank against poor students in other parts of the country. The graph below shows what I found.

This graph shows Kentucky’s rank among the states in various assessments in percentile format. Percentile reporting is necessary because all 50 states didn’t participate in all of the NAEP assessments. For example, in Grade 4 NAEP Reading in 1998, 39 states participated and Kentucky’s poor students ranked 12th, outscoring poor kids in 27 other states. So, Kentucky outscored 27/39, or 69 percent of the states that participated. Our poor kids’ performance increased slightly in 2007 when the state outscored poor kids in 37 of the 50 states that participated in that assessment, achieving a 74 percentile score.

Unfortunately, NAEP Grade 4 Reading provides one of only two positive trends for Kentucky in the NAEP results shown in the graph. In sharp contrast, our poor students lost notable ground compared to other states in NAEP Grade 8 Reading, Grade 8 Writing, and Grade 4 Math.

Also notice that for as far back as the NAEP reports the data, Kentucky’s poor students perform around, or even above, the state median (the 50th percentile). The existing trends tend to imply that our poor students probably did not score anywhere near the bottom of the states when KERA was enacted, though completely conclusive evidence about that simply isn’t available.

Certainly, when we look at NAEP changes over time for Kentucky’s poor kids, the picture painted is quite different from the one Ms. Weston creates.

Again, I caution that the rankings shown here probably have some error due to variations in exclusion and accommodation rates, and because the other states experienced some pretty dramatic demographic shifts in student populations over time. Unfortunately, because the NAEP does not separately provide information on those issues for students in the federal lunch program, there is no way to really gauge the possible impacts. However, if the overall exclusion, accommodation, and demographic data for all students in Kentucky are reflected in the poor student population, then the rankings shown in the graph above are too high.


SPWeston said...


Anonymous said...

?? Must be a generational thing.

Anyway, lest there be any implication that offense was intended, I edited it out of the main blog.

SPWeston said...

Thank you.