ACT Scores Highlight Kentucky’s Persisting Racial Achievement Gap

The Kentucky Department of Education released the results of Kentucky high school juniors’ spring ACT scores today. Since 2008, the ACT has been administered to high juniors across the commonwealth as a way of measuring students’ readiness for college. There were modest increases in scores from last year in English (17.3 to 17.8), mathematics (18.2 to 18.3), reading (18.4 to 18.9), and science (18.5 to 18.7). Male and female students’ scores were rougly even.

Racial achievement gaps, however, persist. For example, black students’ scores lag behind white students by 3.4 points in English, 2.1 points in math, 4 points in reading, and a 2 points in science. Black students’ composite score lags behind white students’ composite by 3.2 points (15.8 versus 19). But in addition to the black/white racial achievement gap, black students’ scores also continue to lag behind those of American Indian, Hispanic, and Asian American/Pacific Islander students.

My purpose is only to draw attention to the scores, so I refrain from editorializing. There has been enough of that. I will say, however, that the gaps are absolutely unacceptable. Much remains to be desired with Kentucky’s scores overall, but for me, the persisting achievement gaps are even more upsetting.  Personally, I am sad, outraged, disappointed, and motivated all at once. These scores are part of mounting evidence that we continue to fail our children. This failure lies at the feet of us all; yes schools, but also parents, communities, and higher education institutions. There is so much that can and should be done, but we choose not to do it. Again, we choose not to do it.

Well, I have said enough. Now let’s do something.

For anyone interesting in looking at the results, here is the link to the Kentucky Department of Education’s press release: http://www.education.ky.gov/KDE/HomePageRepository/News+Room/Current+Press+Releases+and+Advisories/10-043.htm

International Symposium on Education Reform (ISER) 2010- South Africa

I had the opportunity in July to attend and present at the 6th annual International Symposium on Education Reform held in South Africa. It was a wonderful experience on many different levels. Delegates from South Africa, the United Kingdom, Finland, and the United States were able to talk about some of the major reforms occuring and being considered in their respective countries. While any attempt to summarize the events and dialogue of the symposium would be futile, I believe there were a few major themes that emerged and worth noting here. All of the participating delegations noted varying degrees of consideration and/or implemenation of education reforms in their countries involving decentralization, democratic decision-making, attempts to make bureucracies operate more efficiently, and minimizing the effects of inequity on children’s scholastic achievement. A brief description of these themes follows.

  • Decentralization: The delegations talked of shifts in their nations of how accountability and decision-making authority are conceptualized. Across nations, it appeared to evident that decision-making authority is being devolved to the school building level.
  • Democratic decision-making: Across nations, conversations dealt with the issue of engaging constituencies that have traditionally been external to schools, including parents, businesses, and non-parent community members. Engagement of these constituencies through school governing councils, parent-teacher organizations, and school outreach efforts were discussed, and the effectiveness of such strategies was also considered.
  • Bureaucracy: The questions of making bureaucracies operate more efficiently was  a major theme of conversations. Striking, was the degree of similarity between the bureucratic structures of systems around the world. Questions in these discussions centered on identifying and reducing redundancy in school bureaucracies, and reconsidering the positioning of human resources that have been placed in “central officies.”
  • Minimizing the Effects of Inequity: Delegates discussed and considered strategies for the minimizing the effects of racial and economic inequity on student learning.  Delegates aknowledged the indisputable reality that across the globe, families’ socio-economic statuses and parents’ educational levels factor significantly into students’ learning. They spent considerable time discussing strategies that hold promise for mitigating those factors.