Recent newspaper articles by columnist Bill Bishop in the Lexington Herald-Leader point to persistent regional disparities in achievement in Kentucky public schools. In spite of a mandate to create educational equality, the Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) has not eliminated inequalities in school performance scores and the problem may even be getting worse according to Mr. Bishop. The objective of the present study is to determine what disparities exist among Kentucky’s eight Service Center Regions. The analysis uses school Academic Index scores, from 1992-93 to 1996-97, averaged by region. The regional averages (or means) are compared descriptively along with the statistical application of pairwise multiple comparisons. The study’s findings show that regional disparities in Academic Index scores clearly exist. These disparities are probably owing, at least in part, to contextual effects such as ruralmetropolitan differences and socioeconomic influences. A goal of KERA should be to narrow the gap between the schools in different regions. To assess the accomplishment of this goal, it will be useful to regularly monitor disparities in the gains that regions achieve in their scores over time. The present analysis concludes that after five years, schools in the eight Service Regions have generally kept pace with one another. Thus, although greater equality is still an unrealized ideal under KERA, improvement has taken place with little evidence thus far of a “widening gap” between the higher- and lower-scoring regions. Another five years of data should tell if a widening gap between the regions has become a persistent problem.
Occasional Research Paper, no. 2, May 1998.