Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Measuring the Gap: The State of Equity of Student Achievement in Kentucky

Academic journal article Educational Research Quarterly

Measuring the Gap: The State of Equity of Student Achievement in Kentucky

Article excerpt


The No Child Left Behind Act of 2002 has increased emphasis on "closing the gap" between the achievement of African-American and disadvantaged children and that of their respective peers. Using the 2001 results of Kentucky's accountability tests (e.g., CTBS-5, KCCT), Chisquare analyses were performed to determine whether, when disaggregated by quartile (CTBS-5) or proficiency-level (KCCT), a significant difference existed for each school between the distributions of disadvantaged and minority students and those of their respective peers. Chi-square analyses were additionally performed to determine whether statistically significant relationships existed between exogenous school characteristics (e.g., school size, school poverty level) and the equity of student achievement. Results of the study indicated that a majority of elementary, middle, and high schools displayed inequitable student outcomes between disadvantaged and minority students and their respective peers on both assessments. Moreover, school size was shown to relate significantly to the equity of student assessment results at the elementary and high school levels.

Prior to No Child Left Behind, only 17 states had required that student achievement data be disaggregated ("Quality Counts", 2002). With equity now a component of Adequate Yearly Progress (A YP)(Center on Educational Policy, 2002), it has become critical the current level of equity of achievement between African-American and disadvantaged students and their respective peers be established so that progress may be measured. The purpose of this study was to describe the degree to which ethnic and socioeconomic equity existed in Kentucky elementary, middle and high schools in 2001, and to assess whether a trend exists between equitable student outcomes and overall school socioeconomic-level and school size.

Nature of Public School Accountability

In general, public school accountability models have been constructed around a framework of systemic goals, standards of school performance, a means of school performance measurement, and a system rewards and sanctions assigned to schools based upon varying levels of school performance (Hanushek & Raymond, 2001). Public school accountability systems have sought to leverage change by opening schools to public scrutiny for the purpose of placing pressure upon schools to take steps to increase student test scores (Gullatt & Ritter, 2000; Ladd, 2001). Priorto the passage of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB Act) of 2002, 48 states and the District of Columbia had enacted accountability systems that utilized education goals and standards in core subject areas to raise aggregate student achievement ("Quality Counts", 2002).

Accountability in Kentucky

In 1992, Kentucky's accountability system, at that time the Kentucky Instructional Results Information System (KIRIS), was implemented as part of the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA). KIRIS was designed to reflect the degree to which schools were improving the effectiveness of their instructional program within the context of the Kentucky's learning goals, as measured by both cognitive and non-cognitive indicators. A system of rewards and sanctions based upon schools' progress toward "improvement goals" was implemented as an incentive for schools to progress toward KIRIS goals (KDE, 1998).

With KIRIS, each individual school was assigned a KIRIS improvement goal every two-years based upon the difference between each school's current KIRIS accountability index and the 20-year statewide goal of 100. This method of establishing improvement goals was intended to allow interim goals to be individualized for each school, with initially low-performing schools having to show larger biennial gains than schools that were initially high-performing (KDE, 1998).

Schools meeting or exceeding their improvement goal were designated as being in "Rewards", which entitled them to receive monetary rewards from the state. …

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