University of Kentucky

Poster Title

The Mountain Divide: Education Quality Discrepancies Between Kentucky and Central Appalachia

Institution

University of Kentucky

Abstract

The Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) was a momentous piece of legislation, not just for Kentucky, but the entire nation. The ambitious policy was a reaction to the Kentucky Supreme Court’s declaration of the unconstitutionality of the Kentucky public education system, and the policy sought to reduce inequality in school funding, and reduce the gap in student achievement across the disparate regions of Kentucky. Twenty years later, KERA successfully reduced school financing inequality, but analysis projects KERA’s attempts to reduce gaps in student achievement as inconclusive at best (i.e. not by a significant amount). Now, with the Kentucky General Assembly enacting new policies that aim to increase education attainment, and improve overall education quality, it is more important than ever to understand where KERA fell short in converging achievement. Understanding this is integral in projecting the future success of the recently enacted Kentucky Senate Bill 1 and Kentucky Senate Bill 97 that are promising to raise education outcomes in a way that KERA lacked. This research used a fixed-effect model to understand what factors created the differences between the Appalachia region and the rest of Kentucky in student achievement. Using testing and school data from the Kentucky Department of Education, Economic Data from the Bureau for Economic, and Health Data from County Health Rankings, teacher experience and expertise, and low birth weights helped to explain the significant differences in student achievement between Kentucky and the rest of Kentucky. Addressing these issues in policy is integral to the long-term growth of Eastern Kentucky.

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The Mountain Divide: Education Quality Discrepancies Between Kentucky and Central Appalachia

The Kentucky Education Reform Act (KERA) was a momentous piece of legislation, not just for Kentucky, but the entire nation. The ambitious policy was a reaction to the Kentucky Supreme Court’s declaration of the unconstitutionality of the Kentucky public education system, and the policy sought to reduce inequality in school funding, and reduce the gap in student achievement across the disparate regions of Kentucky. Twenty years later, KERA successfully reduced school financing inequality, but analysis projects KERA’s attempts to reduce gaps in student achievement as inconclusive at best (i.e. not by a significant amount). Now, with the Kentucky General Assembly enacting new policies that aim to increase education attainment, and improve overall education quality, it is more important than ever to understand where KERA fell short in converging achievement. Understanding this is integral in projecting the future success of the recently enacted Kentucky Senate Bill 1 and Kentucky Senate Bill 97 that are promising to raise education outcomes in a way that KERA lacked. This research used a fixed-effect model to understand what factors created the differences between the Appalachia region and the rest of Kentucky in student achievement. Using testing and school data from the Kentucky Department of Education, Economic Data from the Bureau for Economic, and Health Data from County Health Rankings, teacher experience and expertise, and low birth weights helped to explain the significant differences in student achievement between Kentucky and the rest of Kentucky. Addressing these issues in policy is integral to the long-term growth of Eastern Kentucky.