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Third-Year Scores From Common-Core Tests Released by Kentucky

Kentucky has released scores from last year's reading and math assessments aligned to the Common Core State Standards. The 2013-14 school year was the third year the Bluegrass State has assessed students on tests, called K-PREP, that are aligned to the common standards. So what are the results?

The short answer is that elementary school students showed the highest rate of improvement in both reading and math, followed by middle school students. However, the picture was mixed for high school students, where performance actually dipped slightly on the reading test and increased by a relatively small percentage in math. High school students in Kentucky take K-PREP end-of-course exams, and the scores for high schoolers in the chart below are on English II and Algebra II.

KYTests.PNGAmong the grade levels and subjects, the biggest improvement was shown by elementary school students in reading, increasing their proficiency scores by 6.9 percentage points from 2013 to 2014. 

Responses from common-core supporters were positive.

"The numbers show, without a doubt, that we are making progress," said Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday in a statement accompanying the release of the scores.

You may remember that Holliday had mixed reviews of Kentucky's scores on the second year of common-core tests a year ago, saying that the scores did not go up as much as the state anticipated.

"The results in Kentucky are early signs showing we are on the right track with the Common Core State Standards. Today, more kids are not only graduating from high school in Kentucky, but they are graduating prepared for college and for careers because they are mastering these higher standards," said Chris Minnich, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, which along with the National Governors Association oversaw the development of the common core. (Holliday is also the president of the CCSSO.)

The department also released scores from its "gap group," a super-subgroup that includes racial minorities, students eligible for free or reduced-price meals, and other students who have historically scored lower on state assessments. What about the scores for that gap group?

KYTests2.PNGPerhaps not surprisingly, there's a similar dynamic with gap-group scores as there is with the overall scores: Elementary school students showed the most dramatic improvement in both reading and math, while high school scores either dipped a little bit or rose slightly.

But for those concerned about the achievement gaps, that chart leaves out a lot of information—a major concern about super-subgroups ever since they were created was that they could obscure the performance of individual student groups. This data aren't included in the news release from the Kentucky education department, but the state does have data on how individual racial and other groups performed. 

For example, among elementary school students on the reading exam, 58.2 percent of white non-Hispanics scored at least proficient, while just 33.8 percent of black students (the second-largest racial demographic among state test-takers) came in at the proficient level. Among those eligible for free or reduced-price meals, for example, 44.7 percent scored at least proficient. Among elementary schoolers in math, the white-black gap was smaller, with 52.1 percent of of whites scoring proficient and 30.3 percent of blacks going so. And only 38.3 percent of low-income students, meanwhile, scored proficient on the elementary school math tests.

Achievement gaps were similar for middle school students on both tests, which were designed for Kentucky by Pearson. For example, you can see the middle school math scores broken down by various groups in the chart created by the state by going to this link, then clicking on "Middle School - All Students," then Clicking "By Group." UPDATE: I originally posted a chart with this entry that was copied from the Kentucky department's website, but it did not display correctly.  

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