Will the obstruction to better reading instruction continue in Kentucky? – The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions


Data from the NAEP shows that Mississippi’s gains during these two periods are far from similar. Between 1992 and 2013, a period of 21 years, the Mississippi NAEP Grade 4 reading scale score rose from 199 to 209, a gain of 10 points. But, in just the first six years after Mississippi began passing its major education reform bills, from 2013 to 2019, the scale score increased by an additional 10 points.

Doing a little math shows that from 1992 to 2013, Mississippi only improved at a rate of 0.48 score points on the NAEP scale per year. Between 2013 and 2019, the improvement rate climbed to 1.67 score points on the NAEP scale per year. The improvement rate for this more recent period is 350% of the slowest rate for the previous period.

As a side note, Figure 4 also shows that the Kentucky NAEP Grade 4 reading scores began to decline after 2015, before COVID has hit.

As a result, as of 2019, Mississippi’s overall average score for all students is not statistically significantly different from that of Kentucky. However, Mississippi is obviously improving while Kentucky is now in decline. Can it really be that Mississippi doesn’t have answers worth investigating?

However, only comparing “all students” NAEP scores across states can be misleading. We will expand on this with the discussion of Batt’s next comment.

No state solved gap issues overnight. A much better question is: are the spreads improving in Mississippi?

The NAEP data explorer tells us that in 1992 the gap between whites and blacks on the NAEP Grade 4 reading scale in Mississippi was 31 points. By 2013, the gap had narrowed to 25 points. This results in the gap reduction rate being 0.28 points per year between 1992 and 2013.

In 2019, the gap between whites and blacks at Level 4 on the NAEP scale in Mississippi was further reduced to 21 points (four points lower than Kentucky’s 2019 gap). This makes the Mississippi gap reduction rate equal to 0.67 percentage points per year between 2013 and 2019.

Thus, the rate of reduction in the achievement gap between whites and blacks in Mississippi also accelerated, especially after the start of the 2013 reforms in that state.

Again, Batt didn’t give us the right image. Mississippi reform is certainly correlated with positive changes in the performance of the NAEP.

  • At 1 hour 57 minutes and 50 seconds after the board meeting began, Batt said Mississippi had the highest third-grade retention rate of any state, implying that was a very bad thing. .

First of all, how can it be a good thing to promote a student out of grade three if that student cannot read? After all, from grade 4 onwards, the curriculum is designed around the premise that students can now read to learn. In this system, a non-reader leaving third grade has serious problems for the remainder of their K-12 experience.

As noted in our blog post, “More Food for Thought on the Mississippi NAEP Situation,” there is evidence in Mississippi’s 3rd and 4th grade enrollment data by grade that a very noticeable increase in retention s ‘was produced in 2016, the year after the enactment of Mississippi. its stricter policy on promotion to 4th year. By comparing the enrollments in 3rd year in 2015 with those in 4th year in 2016, it seems that 1,989 students were accepted. It is indeed much more than the difference of 725 pupils between the numbers of 2013 in 3rd year and in 2014 in 4th year.

But, after 2016, the Mississippi detention situation improved rapidly. By the time the 2019 NAEP arrived, the gap between Mississippi’s 2018 3rd grade enrollment and 2019 4th grade enrollment was only 680 students. This is even less than the difference between the 3rd and the 4th year before the start of the reform retention program!

So the enrollment data actually indicates that in 2019, teachers were really teaching a higher proportion of students well enough to reach the promotion gate in grade 4. This is exactly what should happen if the Mississippi reform works.

If you haven’t followed this discussion, you can get a more detailed explanation in the “More Food for Thought” blog. But the bottom line is that actual Mississippi enrollment data indicates that Batt’s claim about retention doesn’t seem correct either.

All of this raises a question: why could Batt want to discredit what happened in Mississippi?

Is she influenced by the same group of teachers who fought to eliminate Bill 115 from the Senate in the 2021 regular legislative session (another topic covered in the Milton Wright report)? This legislation is said to have reformed a number of things, including Bluegrass State’s Read to Achieve (RTA) program, which has operated, at a steep price, for more than a decade without even making a dent in reading proficiency rates. 4th grade NAEP students shown in Figure 1.

Batt certainly took issue with a program mentioned in the department’s presentation called Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS). This program, used in Mississippi, emphasizes teaching phonemic awareness and phonetics early in reading instruction, which is generally disliked by many teachers who continue to cling to Trendy ideas on teaching reading found in what is now called “balanced literacy”, but which is mostly just a warm-up of the “Whole Language” reading philosophy.

Elements of the Balanced Literacy / Whole Language approach are now discredited by many scientific researchers (some of these trendy ideas are discussed in the Milton Wright report. [See Pages 6 and 9]).

Batt claimed that LETRS had no research behind it, but the department’s briefing team mentioned that in addition to evidence from Mississippi, there are also favorable reports from Colorado and Louisiana. Granted, the NAEP data for Mississippi also looks pretty compelling.

By the way, there has been a lot of criticism of balanced literacy lately. In fact, Lucy Calkins, the lead creator of one of these programs, the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project (TCRWP), announced that the program would be rewritten to remove these issues following criticism that the program was failing to do so. not correctly phonetics and phonemic awareness. (a problem with balanced literacy approaches),

Finally, a message from the recent board meeting seems very clear: the buzz about teaching reading, including some that RTA remedial instructors and many regular Kentucky reading teachers in generally used, are seriously questioned due to lack of agreement with scientific research on reading. However, some of our educators – apparently more than a few of them – have a real problem accepting that what they’ve been doing for years isn’t the best approach – or maybe even that was in fact detrimental to many students.

Such denial is a real problem. Certainly, since the board meeting last week, it’s clear that the Kentucky reading war is still ongoing. And, unless and until other members of the Kentucky Board of Education realize what science really shows for teaching reading, war is also not likely to be. won.

In fact, as long as entrenched teachers have full control over the curriculum through school-based decision-making boards, the Kentucky Board of Education simply doesn’t have the authority to actually make changes. So, despite the sentiments expressed at the board meeting against it, legislation will clearly be needed if Kentucky is ever to keep pace with the dramatic improvements in reading underway in Mississippi and other states. who also adapt their reading instruction. with what scientific research shows works best.


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