Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Prichard Committee Statement on 2015 ACT Results

Here's the full text of the Prichard Committee statement released today:

The ACT results released today by Kentucky Department of Education show positive trends for the 2015 graduating class overall, but raise concerns about whether African American, Hispanic, and American Indian students are receiving the full support they need and deserve.

The good news is that members of the 2015 class as a whole looked stronger than their 2014 peers. In English, mathematics and reading, more of them met Kentucky’s benchmarks for college readiness. Progress in mathematics was especially strong, with an increase of more than 4% in students who are ready for credit-bearing college work.

For some student groups, however, the results were clearly not strong enough. Students from different racial backgrounds still have quite different results. Looking at ACT composite scores, 2015 African American graduates did no better than their 2014 peers, and Hispanic graduates did slightly worse. American Indian students improved just slightly faster than white students and not at a pace to close the big gap between the two groups. All three groups have results showing them less ready for college success than their white and Asian classmates.

The Kentucky Board of Education has already added important new efforts to reduce novice performance in all subgroups, signaling that it is time for deeper, more sustained work to end these gaps. To support renewed and expanding work on increasing achievement and closing gaps, a Prichard Committee study group will be working through the fall to analyze data, policy and practice, with the aim to share recommendations at the beginning of 2016.

For Kentucky to flourish, we need for Kentucky students of every background to reach their potential and join in building a strong, shared future. While progress is evident overall, important student subgroups still lag behind, demonstrating the need for more concerted efforts to close these gaps rapidly. Our goal must be for all Kentucky students to graduate from high school truly ready for adult success.

ACT Readiness Moves Forward, But With Important Gaps

The Kentucky Department of Education released ACT results for 2015 public school graduates this afternoon, showing a sturdy trend for students overall but raising concerns about how well we're serving our African-American, Hispanic, and American Indian students.

First, here's the overall good news, with upward movement on the percent of students reaching all three of the college readiness benchmarks set by the Council on Postsecondary Education.

Second, here's a look at the trends for subgroups, this time showing composite scores (combining English, math, reading, and science) rather than percent meeting benchmarks. Highlighted, you can see that:
  • African American students made no gains compared to last year
  • Hispanic students lost one-tenth of a point
  • American Indian students gained three-tenths of a point, growing a bit faster than students overall, with results still far behind their white classmates

Results for students with disabilities and students who receive free or reduced-price meals were not included in the press release but will be included in the 2014-15 school report cards now scheduled for release in early October.

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.