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New Report Shows Small Test Score Improvement Relative to Increase in K-12 Funding

A new report released today, authored by Pegasus Institute fellows John Garen and Steven Gordon, shows that Kentucky’s NAEP test score achievement has shown some improvement. However, any improvement is small relative to the 45% increase in real, per pupil funding that K-12 has received over that past two-and-a-half decades. The taxpayers’ “bang per buck,” i.e., NAEP achievement per $1,000 of funding, has dropped a great deal during this time period. Moreover, there has been no reduction in the test achievement gap for racial groups, nor for students from low-income families.

The main findings from the report:

• There has been some improvement in Kentucky’s grade 4 and grade 8 reading and math test scores since the 1990s.

• Reading test score changes have been quite modest, where the grade 4 score rose by 5.2% from 1992 to 2017 and the grade 8 score rose by just 1.1% from 1998 to 2017.

• The grade 4 math test score improved by 11.2% over the 25 year span between 1992 and 2017, while the grade 8 math score rose by 8.2% from 1990 to 2017.

• Inflation adjusted, per pupil funding of K-12 rose very substantially throughout most of this roughly 25-year period, with the exception of 2011 to 2014 in the aftermath of the recent recession. Overall, real, per pupil funding rose by 45% between 1991 and 2015.

• The productivity of K-12 funding, calculated as NAEP test score points per $1,000 of funding, fell almost continuously during the study time period, dropping for all NAEP test by at least 20%. This implies that taxpayer funds received a lower and lower “bang per buck” in terms of test score achievement.

• The only persistent period of increases in productivity was 2009 to 2013. This was mostly due to the reduction in real, per pupil funding during this time and not to any substantial rise in test scores.

• There was essentially no reduction in the gap between the African American student and white student test scores during the study period.

• The gap between test scores of students from low-income families, as proxied by national-school-lunch-program eligible, and students from other families showed no reduction during the study period.

Read the whole report on Test Scores, Education Spending and Productivity in Kentucky Public Education here.

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