Sunday, September 14, 2014

U.S. Chamber Grades for Kentucky Education

The map above rates states on achievement, one of 11 grades given by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in its newest report on Leaders and Laggards: A State-By-State Report Card on K-12 Educational Effectiveness. Here come the full set of Kentucky ratings from that report, annotated with definitions from the report and a variety of quick reactions from my first reading of the document.

C in Achievement

  • Definition: Student performance on NAEP, including gains from 2005 to 2013.
  • Clarification: The ratings use reading (where Kentucky is relatively strong) and mathematics (where we are less strong), but leaves out science, where we have shown signal successes.
  • Celebration: Kentucky did receive an A for “Progress made from 2007 Leaders and Laggards.”

C in Academic Achievement for Low-Income and Minority Students

  • Definition: Student performance on NAEP, including gains from 2005 to 2013; disaggregated for African-American, Hispanic, and low-income students.
  • Dejection: For these students, Kentucky only received a C for"Progress made from 2007 Leaders and Laggards.”

C in Return on Investment

  • Definition: NAEP scores divided by state education expenditures, adjusted for cost of living.
  • Fascination: The Chamber has made an adjustment for regional cost of living, reporting that its method “was derived from the work of the Missouri Department on Economic Development.” In principle, I agree that Kentucky should acknowledge some of the lower costs faced by our families, and I hope to study this approach a bit to see if it seems like a sound way to consider that factor.

C in Truth in Advertising: Student Proficiency

  • Definition: State-reported proficiency rates compared with NAEP proficiency rates.
  • Frustration: The analysis comes from 2011 data, meaning it’s still reporting on Kentucky’s old tests based on our old standards.  A repeat of the same study would surely show Kentucky as notably stronger.

C in Postsecondary and Workforce Readiness

  • Definition: Advanced Placement (AP) exams passed by the class of 2013, high school graduation rates, and chance for college at age 19.
  • Anticipation: The second two numbers are based on estimates of the number of students starting grade 9, reflecting some of the last years the estimation step will be necessary.  Soon, soon, we'll be able to discuss these questions on the basis of much firmer actual numbers. Just as a sample of why this matters, the report shows a Kentucky 82% graduation rate, but our first graduation report tracking a full cohort shows us at 86%: better numbers will give us a better sense of where Kentucky and other states really stand.

C in 21st Century Teaching Force

  • Definition: Preparing, recruiting, and evaluating the teacher workforce
  • Modification: In this list, a C does not mean a score between 20th and 30th.  The grades come straight from the National Center for Teaching Quality, which sets a high bar and did not give any A grades at all the most recent report.   
  • Amplification: Kentucky’s C actually puts it in a three way tie for 20th among the 50 states.

F in Parental Options

  • Definition: The market share of students in schools of choice, and two rankings of how hospitable state policy is to greater choice options.
  • Confirmation: Yes, this one is about Kentucky not having charter schools.

A in Data Quality

  • Definition: Collection and use of high-quality and actionable student and teacher performance data.
  • Exploration: Kentucky has implemented 9 of 10 steps recommended by the Data Quality campaign—and only two states have all ten.  The one we haven't fully applied is the one that calls on states to "Implement policies and promote practices, including professional development and credentialing, to ensure educators know how to access and use data appropriately."

D- in Technology

  • Definition: Student access to high-quality computer-based instruction.
  • Irritation: This rating is not about the learning technology available for students to use in varied classes across the state, and it's not about students' opportunities to use advanced technological stills. It's only about whether students can step away from existing classrooms to take classes on-line.  It’s about a second form of options for parents and students, like the Parental Options entry above. It's reasonable for to value that kind of option, but less reasonable to treat it as the main issue in technology in education.

D in International Competitiveness

  • Definition: State scores on NAEP compared with international benchmarks, and AP exams passed by the class of 2013 on STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) and foreign language exams.
  • Recognition: This measure is one Kentucky should value, moving beyond AP opportunities in general to a look at AP courses in fields where we definitely need to expand our workforce capacity. 

F in Fiscal Responsibility

  • Definition: State pension funding.
  • Consternation: Kentucky is hit hard, for long-term failure to fund our pension obligations to educators and also for more recent failure to take big enough steps toward resolving the problem.  

 --Posted by Susan Perkins Weston

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Updates and data on Kentucky education!