Thursday, October 13, 2011

Which education gaps are being improved?

With its recent release of the 2011 Kentucky Core Content Test results (KCCT), the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) inaugurated a new concept in reporting education gaps.

Instead of reporting such statistics as the difference in proficiency rates between blacks and whites, or males and females, the department now reports each student group’s performance separately in terms of how far that group is from 100 percent proficiency. Between 2010 and 2011, the KDE’s Gap to Goal report (obtain by clicking on the “Statewide” “All District” Excel spreadsheet icon here) shows that averaged statewide, almost every group closed the “Gap to Goal” of 100. In other words, the average proficiency rate for each student group for reading and math combined in 2011 was higher than the group’s combined average for 2010.

There is some merit to this gap to goal approach, because it doesn’t mean very much if, for example, blacks close the gap with whites only because white proficiency rates decline.

However, there is also merit to looking at achievement gaps in the classical way: whites versus blacks, males versus females, and learning disabled students versus the overall average performance for all students. And, there is merit to looking at performance separately for each academic subject.

So, I took the recent Gap to Goal report from the KDE and did those additional calculations. This table shows what I found (click on it to enlarge).

Here is how to read this table.

In 2010 the percentage of the “All Student” group that scored either “Proficient” or “Distinguished” on the KCCT Reading Assessment was 71.85 percent. In the same year, the percentage of students “With Disability” who scored in this proficient range was only 47.06 percent. The difference, shown in the column headed “2010 Reading Gaps” was 24.79 points.

Similar results are shown in succeeding columns for 2010 math and 2011 reading and math.

Finally the last two columns show the trend for the gap. In the case of reading, in 2010 the all student versus disabled student gap was 24.79, and previously noted, and in 2011 it was 26.49 points. That is an increasing trend, which isn’t what we want. So, the column on the right for “Gap Trend in Reading” shows the word “Increasing” in red.

A similar logic applies to other gap calculations for females versus males (shown in the yellow highlighted rows) and whites versus African-Americans (in the salmon colored rows).

You’ll note that there is a lot of red in those last two columns. In fact, among all the comparisons shown, only the white versus African-American math gap shows improvement.

Thus, this classical gap analysis shows that kids are still being left behind in Kentucky’s public schools, namely African-Americans, students with learning disabilities, and males.

Furthermore, you can’t tell that from the official Gap to Goal calculations. You have to look deeper.

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