Kentucky was an earlier adopter of the Common Core State Standards. They adopted them to replace the state’s English Language Arts and math standards over five years ago. The state has seen a widening black-white achievement gap since then.
The Hechinger Report writes:
In spring 2015, in the elementary grades, 33 percent of black students were proficient in reading, versus 58 percent of white students; in math, the breakdown was 31 percent to 52 percent, according to Kentucky Department of Education figures.
And those gaps, in many cases, have widened, according to an analysis of state testing data by The Hechinger Report and theCourier-Journal.
In Jefferson County Public Schools in 2011-12, the first year of Common Core testing, 25 percent of black third-graders were proficient or better in reading, compared to 54 percent of white third-graders. By 2015, when the majority of those same students likely had reached sixth grade, the percentage of proficient black sixth-graders had inched up 2 points while that of white sixth-graders had increased more than 4 points.
The students at Dunn Elementary, located in a leafy and affluent section of Louisville, had average scores about 20 points higher than the rest of the state. From 2012 to 2015, its white and black students saw improvement on reading tests, and the black students in many cases outscored their black peers in the rest of the district. But at the same time, white students at Dunn scored proficient or better in both math and reading at more than double the percentage of black students.
Closing these gaps was one of the goals of Common Core reform.
In the past, “Schools that were in low-income areas and predominately served students of color often had very low standards for their students that did not prepare them adequately. When the [Common Core] standards were first introduced, I sent them to my sister, a college professor of English, and she wrote back right away, ‘Yeah, this is what you need to succeed in college,’ ” said Sonja Brookins Santelises, vice president of K-12 policy and practice at the Education Trust, a Washington, D.C.-based research group.
Now, Kentucky finds itself at a crossroads. With four years’ worth of testing to show after its quick embrace of Common Core, it’s clear that raising standards was not enough to help all learners.
The last sentence in this excerpt is a major understatement. There wasn’t (and still isn’t) any empirical evidence that shows standards will help increase student achievement. While Common Core advocates care to admit it we now have evidence in Kentucky that a one-size-fits-all approach to education reform has made the black-white achievement gap worse. Whether it has actually helped Kentucky students in general is still very much up for debate.