Closing the “Honesty Gap” in Kentucky

Screen Shot 2015-05-10 at 1.34.44 PMClick here to see updated data for this state.

While there are discrepancies between student proficiency rates as reported on state tests and the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP), known as “the Nation’s Report Card,” in Kentucky the discrepancies are narrowing and the state is now in the bottom quartile in the country on the “Honesty Gap.” For the 2013-14 school year, Kentucky showed an 18-point discrepancy between state reported proficiency scores and NAEP in fourth-grade reading, and a 15-point discrepancy in eighth-grade math.

In Kentucky, the standard for proficiency and minimum score are set by the state Department of Education. Kentucky officials have partnered with higher education to align their definition of proficiency to the state university systems’ college entrance exam requirements and expectations of preparedness.

Kentucky K-12 Education at a Glance:

  • K-12 Student Population: 685,167 1
  • HS Graduation Rate: 87.5% (2014) 2
  • College Enrollment: 62.9% (2010) 3
  • College Remediation Rate: 43.3% at Four-Year Programs; 45.2% at Two-Year Programs 4

Consequences of the Honesty Gap in Kentucky: Of the Kentucky students at four-year colleges that require remediation, only 32.1 percent go on to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years. Similarly, 5.5 percent of students taking remedial courses at two-year colleges complete a degree within three years. 5 In 2009, the Council on Postsecondary Education reported Kentucky spends more than $35 million a year on remedial education. 6

How Kentucky Closed the Honesty Gap: Kentucky was the first state to adopt the Common Core State Standards in 2010, and immediately began training teachers through regional professional development workshops, and online resources. Teachers began teaching the standards statewide in the 2011-12 school year. The state developed a new assessment, known as the Kentucky Performance Rating for Educational Progress (K-PREP), along with new, higher cut scores (the minimum score required to meet the expectations of a subject by grade level). After administering the test for the first time in 2012, the statewide proficiency rate, or number of students that met or exceeded the expectations of the standards, dropped drastically, by as much as thirty percentage points in some grades and subjects when compared with the previous state test. This happened because the new expectations and the new scores were more honest – not because students performed poorly. Educators ensured parents that students had learned more despite the appearance of lower scores, and that the new standards demanded more than the previous standards. Leaders prepared the public for more “honest” scores, emphasizing that these scores could not be compared to the previous scores; they were a new baseline measure that provided more reliable data and information that could be used to move students forward.

The 2013 and 2014 K-PREP scores saw improvements in proficiency rates as students and teachers rose to the challenge. Teachers began to shift the way they taught the new standards and soon students began exceeding the previous expectations for learning. After having some of the nation’s largest gaps, Kentucky became one of the “Top Truth Tellers” in eighth grade math, narrowing a 32 percentage point discrepancy to 15 between 2011 and 2014. In addition, the number of Kentucky eleventh grade students that met all four benchmarks on the ACT college entrance test increased by 15 percentage points between 2012 and 2014.

In Kentucky, the standard for proficiency supports college and career expectations. So while Kentucky’s approach yielded proficiency rates that are not identical to NAEP rates, the state has chosen another reasonable approach to providing credible information on whether students are being equipped for success in adult life.

For more information read more: What is the Honesty Gap?

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