Kentucky fourth-, eighth-graders 'holding steady' on Nation's Report Card

Kentucky's fourth- and eighth-graders scored above the national average in reading on the so-called nation's report card, but overall their average scores remained essentially unchanged from 2011.

Fourth-graders in the state had an average reading score of 224, compared to an average of 221 for fourth-graders nationwide. Eighth-graders in Kentucky had an average reading score of 270, compared to the national average of 264.

In math, Kentucky fourth-graders equalled the national average of 241. However, eighth-graders fell three points below that class's national average math score of 284.

Overall, however, the report documented no significant change in math or reading scores among fourth- and eighth-graders in the state compared to 2011.

The scores are from the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress, which were made public Thursday.

One noticeable improvement for Kentucky concerned the state's "exclusion rates," which refer to the percentages of children with learning disabilities or limited English proficiency who are excluded from taking the test.

Nine percent of fourth-graders in Kentucky with disabilities were excluded from the reading test in 2011, and 7 percent of disabled eighth-graders were excluded.

This year, the reading exclusion rate for both groups of Kentucky students on the reading test fell to 3 percent. Exclusion rates on the math test also declined.

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday noted that scores for disabled students usually are as much as 30 percent below those of students without disabilities. But he said Kentucky was able to include more of those students on the test this year without "significantly impacting results."

In light of that, Holliday said, "the fact that Kentucky achievement levels are holding steady is actually not bad news."

Richard Innes, education analyst with the free market-based Bluegrass Institute for Policy Solutions, said he was surprised that Kentucky scores didn't decline with more disabled students taking the test this year.

"That was a surprise; I had thought our scores probably would decline if we reduced the exclusion rates," Innes said Thursday.

On the other hand, Innes contended that Kentucky's overall 2013 results "don't show much of a performance change." He called that "problematic," becasue results from the state K-PREP test released in September showed increases in students' proficiency rates.

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