NAEP: Kentucky stalls on progress in 4th- and 8th-grade math; shows declines in reading

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(FRANKFORT, KY) – According to National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores released Oct. 30, Kentucky schools have failed to make progress in the critical areas of 4th- and 8th-grade reading and mathematics for a decade (see attached chart). The assessment, which is given every two years to a sample of elementary and middle school students throughout the country, was administered in the spring of 2019 to 6,300 students in 318 Kentucky schools.

NAEP is the only assessment that measures what U.S. students know and can do in various subjects from state to state and in some urban districts (including Jefferson County Public Schools). While Kentucky’s students performed about the same as students in roughly half of other states, scores either remained the same from 2009 and 2017 or dropped slightly.

2019 NAEP Scale Scores – Kentucky Compared to Other States/Jurisdictions

Grade/SubjectStates/Jurisdictions Scoring Lower than KentuckyStates/Jurisdictions Scoring Higher than KentuckyStates/Jurisdictions Scoring About the Same as Kentucky
4th-grade reading13731
8th-grade reading161124
4th-grade mathematics91527
8th-grade mathematics92616

Student performance on NAEP fits into one of four categories: Below Basic, Basic, Proficient or Advanced. In Kentucky, 33% of 4th-graders and 27% of 8th-graders were Below Basic in reading, signaling what Kentucky Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis refers to as an “academic emergency.” In mathematics, 19% of 4th-graders and 33% of 8th-graders scored at the Below Basic level.

“I would like us to make more progress than we’ve had recently in both reading and math, but the number and percentage of Kentucky 4th- and 8th-graders with performance at the Below Basic level on NAEP is what troubles me most. The results are not surprising, however, in that these results align with the results of recent statewide assessment results on K-PREP,” said Lewis.

“If we are serious about changing these outcomes, we have to act intentionally and strategically to ensure all Kentucky students, particularly our most vulnerable students, have access to high-quality, standards-aligned curriculum and effective instruction. If we don’t change the quality of learning experiences provided for students in classrooms, we shouldn’t expect student outcomes to change. Some of our students come to us with significant challenges, and it is those students who need great schools the most. Some Kentucky schools and districts are beating the odds and growing even our students with the greatest needs. Others are not. That has to change.”

2019 NAEP Achievement Level Percentages

Grade/SubjectBelow BasicBasicProficientAdvanced
4th-grade reading3367359
8th-grade reading2773334
4th-grade mathematics1981407
8th-grade mathematics3367297
NOTE: The Basic level signifies partial mastery of the knowledge and skills that are fundamental for proficient work in a grade and subject. Proficient denotes solid academic performance demonstrating competency over challenging subject matter, including subject-matter knowledge, application of such knowledge to real-world situations, and analytical skills. Advanced represents superior performance beyond proficiency. Proficient is not the same as being “on grade level,” which refers to student performance based on local standards and curriculum that can vary among school districts.

 

Jefferson County Public Schools (JCPS) saw a slight increase in 8th-grade math performance. The district saw a 7-point decline in 4th-grade reading.

“The performance of JCPS has a tremendous impact on Kentucky’s progress, as it is the largest district in Kentucky by far and one of the largest districts in the country. As JCPS makes significant progress, so will Kentucky.” said Lewis. “Together, we must continue our focus on ensuring students have access to high-quality curriculum and effective instruction – especially our most vulnerable students.”

Also similar to K-PREP scores, achievement gaps between high- and low-income groups and different racial groups persist in the 2019 NAEP scores for Kentucky. NAEP protects the confidentiality of students, teachers and schools that participate by not reporting individual student, teacher or school data. However, NAEP does provide results for major demographic groups. The data shows performance gaps persist at both the state and national levels.

“Too often access to high-quality curriculum and effective instruction is differentiated based on students’ background, putting our most vulnerable students at risk for an adulthood of poverty and other challenges,” said Lewis. “The systemic flaws in our system that allow and perpetuate such inequity must be changed. Unless we acknowledge and boldly address those flaws, making policy and practice decisions that truly put students’ needs first, students in academic emergency will remain on the fast track to poverty, dependency and prison.”

NAEP Reading Scale Scores by Free or Reduced-Price Meal Eligibility

 4th Grade Eligible KY4th Grade Eligible NATION
4th Grade Not Eligible KY
4th Grade
Not Eligible NATION
8th Grade Eligible KY8th Grade Eligible NATION8th Grade Not Eligible KY8th Grade Not Eligible NATION
1998206195227226251245270268
2002
209 202229229 253249273271
2003209201229229257246273271
2005212203228230256247271270
2007212205234232252247271271
2009215206236232257249276273
2011216207236234260251278275
2013213207237236258254281278
2015219209241237259253279276
2017215208237236256253278277
2019212207235235253249277275

NAEP Reading Scale Scores by Race

 4th Grade White KY4th Grade White NATION4th Grade African American KY4th Grade African American NATION8th Grade White KY8th Grade White NATION8th Grade African American KY8th Grade African American NATION
1998220223199192264268246242
2002222227199198267271248244
2003221227202197269270245244
2005222228203199266269248242
2007225230203203264270247244
2009228229204204269271249245
2011226230210205271272248248
2013227231204205272275247250
2015231232212206271273247247
2017227231204205268274246248
2019225229199203266271239244

NAEP Mathematics Scale Scores by Free or Reduced-Price Meal Eligibility

 4th Grade Eligible KY4th Grade Eligible NATION4th Grade Not Eligible KY4th Grade Not Eligible NATION8th Grade Eligible KY8th Grade Eligible NATION8th Grade Not Eligible KY8th Grade Not Eligible NATION
2000207208230235255253280283
2003220222237244261258284287
2005224225240248264261283288
2007226227245249267265288291
2009229228249250268266290293
2011232229251252271269294295
2013232230251254268270293297
2015234229255253268268291296
2017230228252253265267293297
2019230229253253267266292296

NAEP Mathematics Scale Scores by Race

 4th Grade White KY4th Grade White NATION4th Grade African American KY4th Grade African American NATION8th Grade White KY8th Grade White NATION8th Grade African American KY8th Grade African American NATION
2000223233196203272283250243
2003231243214216277287250252
2005234246217220276288255254
2007238248219222282290257259
2009241248220222282292258260
2011243249225224284293261262
2013244250224224283293260263
2015244248226224281291257260
2017243248218223282292252260
2019242249223224282291256259

For more than 40 years, NAEP has been the country’s only nationally representative and continuing survey of students’ educational achievement. The assessment is authorized by Congress, directed by the National Center for Education Statistics and developed by Educational Testing Service of Princeton, N.J. Westat, Inc. of Rockville, Md., conducts sample selection and data collection. More information is available on NAEP’s website.

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