Friday, August 19, 2011

More on Louisiana Vs. Kentucky on the ACT

After I started posting comments on the new ACT score release yesterday, I was engaged by an anonymous reader with an obvious bias against charter schools. That individual also seems to be having a lot of trouble getting his or her facts straight. That happens in this blog from time to time, and we do work to try to insure that our readers get an accurate picture when those who post comments are confused.

However, sometimes, good comes from those reader challenges, even when the reader is wrong.

A case in point: our anonymous – and not well-informed – correspondent alleged that Louisiana tested 100 percent of its students with the ACT in 2007. That isn’t true, but when I checked the right information for 2007, I discovered something that adds to my evidence that post-Katrina Louisiana has made some remarkable progress on the ACT.

Here is the real data on graduates tested and ACT scores for Kentucky and Louisiana from 2007. It is on line in the ACT, Incorporated’s web site, accessible under the “ACT Average Composite Scores by State” section (I removed other state data for clarity).

Notice that both states had nearly identical numbers of graduates tested in 2007 (77 percent in Kentucky and 79 percent in Louisiana) and that Louisiana scored 0.6 point lower on the ACT Composite Score than Kentucky.

Because the 2007 participation rates are so very close, I think comparison of these scores is reasonable.

Now, flash forward to 2011. Here is how ACT reported that data.

Notice that both states now test all their graduates. However, the ACT Composite Score situation has flip-flopped. Louisiana – ravaged by Katrina six years ago – now scores 0.6 point higher than Kentucky.

So, between 2007 and 2011 charter school rich Louisiana went from 0.6 point below Kentucky’s ACT Composite Score to 0.6 point above. That relative change of 1.2 points is noteworthy on a 36 point test like the ACT.

Even after I pointed this out, our anonymous nay-sayer was unconvinced. He or she tried to claim something to the effect that only the rich had moved back to Louisiana after the big storm hit.

I doubted that assertion, so I checked the percentages of students eligible for free and reduced cost lunches in the National Assessment of Educational Progress eighth grade reading assessments of 2003 (Closest pre-Katrina administration) and 2009 (most recently available). I used the NAEP Data Explorer to find those figures.

Guess what: In 2003, free and reduced cost lunch eligible students in Louisiana amounted to 50% of all the students there.

In 2009, lunch eligibility in Louisiana rose significantly to 62 percent, an increase of 12 points.

In contrast, Kentucky’s poverty rate was 42 percent in 2003 and rose to only 47 percent in 2009.

So, Louisiana had 8 points more poverty in 2003 and that rose to 15 points more by 2009.

If anything, based on the most recently available student poverty rates in NAEP, Louisiana should be at a notably higher disadvantage relative to Kentucky today than it was back in 2003 before Katrina hit. That makes Louisiana’s progress on the ACT even more remarkable.

The ACT doesn’t report on poverty rates, so for now the 2009 data is the most recent I can offer. But, most school statistics don’t change all that rapidly, so it is still very likely that poverty in Louisiana remains notably higher than Kentucky’s even today.

This adds more evidence that something in Louisiana is boosting their performance, and charter schools, which now enroll 70 percent of the students in New Orleans, for example, certainly seem likely to be a part of the process.


Anonymous said...

Check Annie Casey's "Kids Count" data. Don't be a biased fool. Kentucky's kids' poverty is worse than Louisanna's.

Richard Innes said...

RE: Anonymous August 19, 2011 10:56 AM

The Annie E. Casey rates are based on an extraordinarily low ceiling figure for 2009 for poverty. A family of four qualifies with an income of $21,756. A family of four earning one dollar more won't show in those numbers.

Assuming the two adults in this family each work 40 hours a week and have a two-week vacation each year, the $21,756 figure works out to $5.43 per hour.

For some reference, as of July 24, 2009, employees who were covered by the federal Fair Labor Standards Act had to be paid a minimum of $7.25 per hour (

Anyway, even according to Annie E. Casey's very low poverty threshold, 26 percent of Kentucky's kids lived in poverty in 2009. A virtually identical 24 percent of Louisiana's children were in a similar situation.

Even for only the very poor covered by the Casey statistics, both states have essentially equal poverty, but Louisiana still beat us handily for all students, white students and black students on the 2011 ACT Composite. Your poverty excuse does not work.

And, the data I earlier mentioned in other blogs about the free and reduced school lunch rates for both states shows that many more kids in Louisiana live in very financially stressed situations. Those lunch rates from the NAEP Grade 8 Reading Assessment of 2009, again, are 62% in Louisiana and 47% in Kentucky. Both are obviously MUCH higher than the Casey abject poverty rates.