Year of Publication



Martin School of Public Policy and Administration

Degree Name

Master of Public Policy

Executive Summary

The Kentucky public education system has made progress over the past 20 years after a number of reforms beginning in 1990. A stated goal of these reforms has been not only to improve the overall performance of students in a school, but to also ensure that no student groups be allowed to fall behind. To accomplish this, the state has adopted and implemented goals that are shared with those of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, including school accountability and a goal of proficiency for all students by the year 2014. However the most recent analysis of three statewide independent groups reported that most student groups at elementary, middle and high school level are not improving at a pace strong enough to reach the standards Kentucky aims for in the coming years.

This study investigates the effects of school characteristics on differences in female and male students’ performance at different schooling levels from 2007 to 2008, controlling for the school’s racial and socioeconomic composition. The data are analyzed using descriptive statistics, and fixed effects and between effects regressions. Findings suggest that, on average, female students are doing better than male students, and that some school districts exhibit large performance differences by gender for both years and in more than one school level. Although the analysis documents an achievement gap between the genders, this difference was not explained by the school characteristics evaluated with either a fixed effect or a between effect regression model. Nonetheless, the finding supports the literature that separating the effects of the school characteristics from students’ social background, innate ability, and other unobservable factors is inherently difficult, as each of the influences of these factors is embedded within the school systems that are pursuing a variety of policy reforms.