Friday, August 14, 2015

Readiness Gaps: Important Work Ahead

While we can take pride in the work that has brought Kentucky to a 62.5% overall rate of demonstrated readiness for college and/or career for our 2014 high school graduates, we still have lots of work to do, both to raise the overall readiness rate and to close some major readiness gaps. Here comes a frank look at the basics of those gaps, in the form of two charts and some comments on each.
Here, the painfully low readiness rates for students with disabilities and with limited English proficiency are first to catch the eye, but the rates for students receiving free and reduced price meals are also bad news.

The gap group is pretty much identical to the free/reduced meal group, which is pretty much to be expected. Within the gap group, the free/reduced students hugely outnumber the other groups, including students with disabilities and limited English proficiency, along with African American, Hispanic, and American Indian or Native American students.

One more note: I've estimated the results for four advantaged groups: those without disabilities, without limited English proficiency, without free/reduced meal eligibility, and not included in the gap group. Most data for this post can be found in the state's school report card, but these better-served groups are not shown. Still, with a bit of multiplication and subtraction, it's possible to get quite close to what those results must be. They're marked with asterisks to show they did not come directly from the Department of Education.

Next, these are the 2014 rates by students' ethnic background.
White and Asian students are clearly being better prepared for adult success than the other student groups, showing another challenge we face if we want all students to reach the readiness they need.

A second, uncomfortable thing needs to be said out loud: the results for African-American students are lower than those for the free and reduced-price meals group, showing that something more than the challenge of family low-incomes has been going wrong for those students. There's something we're doing or leaving undone for those students, beyond the main economic challenge. That's a distinctive problem that we need to look at frankly and tackle with vigor.

More broadly, each of these gaps are about student possibilities not yet realized and adult contributions that may be lost as a result, weakening all our communities as well as their individual opportunities. Changing that pattern and ending those losses will be important work we must take on.

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