Monday, October 3, 2011

Prichard pushing flawed state rankings for academic progress

There is now no question that the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is pushing a seriously flawed analysis of Kentucky’s ranking for academic performance against the other states in the nation.

Prichard’s new head, Stu Silberman, former superintendent of the Fayette County Public School District, has repeatedly cited the clearly dubious claim that Kentucky used to rank 49th among the states for school performance and now ranks 33rd.

The latest example, this time in print, was Silberman’s Op-Ed, “Big challenges to meet Ky. education goals,” in the Herald-Leader on October 2, 2011.

Silberman bases his claim on a ranking scheme initially fabricated by the now defunct Kentucky Long Term Policy Research Center and recently revived by UK’s Center for Business and Economic Research.

I wrote about some of the obvious problems with this nonsense ranking system last summer, but I have since put together some more reasonable comparisons that don’t do silly things like ranking dropout rate data that has been officially audited and found unreliable.

One thing is now certain: Kentucky’s black students and their parents should take strong exception to Prichard’s attempts to inflate claims about educational progress in this state.

The truth is that Kentucky’s blacks clearly lost ground in math on the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) compared to blacks in other states after KERA began.

Back in 1990, among the 29 states that participated in the NAEP and posted black scores that year, not one state had scores that were statistically significantly higher than the scores Kentucky’s eighth grade black students achieved. Furthermore, in that year Kentucky’s blacks’ eighth grade NAEP math scores were statistically significantly higher than scores blacks got in eight other states.

Flash forward to 2009, the latest data currently available. Out of 43 states that reported scores for blacks, eighth grade blacks in 12 states got NAEP math scores statistically significantly higher than our blacks. Meanwhile, blacks in only six states scored statistically significantly lower than Kentucky’s blacks.

That’s right. Even though more states reported black eight grade math scores in 2009 than in 1990, Kentucky statistically significantly outscored fewer of them. That is real decay in ranking compared to those other states; it’s not progress.

To reemphasize: the NAEP shows blacks in Kentucky lost ground compared to other states in eighth grade math after KERA began. Furthermore, our blacks didn’t perform anywhere near 49th place back in 1990, either.

Oh, yeah, Kentucky’s whites never did climb out of the cellar for eighth grade math. They were at the bottom in 1990, and as of 2009 only got eighth grade math scores that were statistically significantly higher than one other state, West Virginia. This map, which our regular readers have seen before, shows Kentucky’s white eight grade students only statistically tied a handful of other states (shown in tan), and were outscored by all of those states shown in green, 41 of them.

The index paper Silberman cites says we ranked 38th for math in 2009, however. That only happens when you simplistically rank all scores together for all kids. When you do such simplistic ranking, which also ignores the statistical sampling errors in the NAEP, Kentucky gets a huge benefit from being one of the ‘whitest’ states in the nation. Meanwhile, almost every other state now has many more minority students, which drags down their overall average scores and giving Kentucky a huge and misleading advantage in such simplistic rankings.

Anyway, you won’t learn any of this from the flawed index Prichard is pushing.

And, that’s a real shame.


Anonymous said...

It must feel good to get paid to be negative. Do people know how much money you make to write this junk?

Liberty General said...

That's the problem, Mr. Anonymous -- you talk about how this "feels." Too often, these issues have been debated on emotion instead of facts.

I notice that after Mr. Innes laid out fact after fact after fact -- including the fact that the new head of the Prichard Committtee (for Academic EXCELLENCE?! give me a break), which has been in decline for quite some time now, does not account for exclusion rates and sampling errors, all you could do is call it names and accuse him of being "negative."

Where are YOUR facts? Hmmmmmmmmm. Silence. Hmmmmmmmmmmm. More Silence. Hmmmmmmmmm.

Besides, who is it that's being negative here?

Richard Innes said...

RE: Anonymous October 5, 2011 6:19 PM

Liberty General did a very nice job responding to your post, but here are a few more points.

1) What 'junk' are you talking about?

Are you calling the NAEP 'junk'?

Are you calling the ACT, Incorporated's informed, technically based comments 'junk'?

Are you calling official audits from the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts 'junk'?

I referenced all of those in recent blogs about the flaws in the state-to-state rankings that Prichard is citing. This is factual information, not 'junk,' though in my experience those who descend to the level of name-calling usually cannot come to grips with that.

2) Do you really think we should proclaim progress compared to other states when our black kids have clearly lost ground on NAEP eighth grade math assessments?

3) Do you really think we should ignore the fact that in the last NAEP math eighth grade assessment our whites only outscored whites in one other state? Does that sound like 33rd place performance to you?