Sunday, June 21, 2009

Seeing county-level outcomes

The Council on Postsecondary Education has created county profiles with key data on population, education, and related issues. You can find any county you'd like to review here, and they're a great asset for residents interested in understanding local education issues more clearly.

Skimming the reports, though, I've had a hard time picking out which numbers count as strong results and which as weak ones that citizens might want to address and improve.

So, at the left, I offer an experimental format. I took some key numbers from the Fayette County report, and divided by the matching numbers from the state report. Then I highlighted places where Fayette's share was sharply higher or lower than its share of state population, marking differences of more than 10 percent.

Thus, in red, notice that Fayette's shares of high school graduates, adult education enrollment, and GED awards are all smaller than its share of the population.

In purple, Fayette's shares bachelor's degrees, STEM degrees, and graduate and and professional degrees are all higher than its share of the population.

My goal in this experiment is to figure out a format that highlights what's unusual in any county. I've used Fayette first because many PrichBlog readers live there. For them and for others, what questions do you see in this graph? What ideas do you have about why it works this way.

Tomorrow, I'll share several more counties to continue this experiment.


  1. The CPE figures are based on residency, not school system, so students from non-public high schools are included throughout.

  2. I think the college-related statistics are a bit shaky. Even if based on residence, college kids sometimes switch residence to the college town, which would inflate numbers somewhat for Fayette County since UK is there.

    Also, dividing by total population isn't very revealing. What if Fayette County has appreciably more or less young citizens than the rest of the state?

    The GED issue is complex. It might be a good thing for an area to have low GEDs -- if it has above average high school graduates.

    I think your basic idea is interesting, but the details need a lot more work.

  3. Can this data, configured in this way, make it easier for people ask better questions in their own communities, in ways that contribute to better outcomes in the future? That's the question that matters to me.

    Your notes could easily be reframed as that sort of questions:

    1. Can we find out how many students switch residence to Fayette County? That would be pretty important for understanding how our local kids are doing.

    2. What is our share of Kentucky residents under 18? How do our high school results look compared to that?

    3. Who is in charge of our Adult Education program, and could we talk to that person about whether the GED rate makes sense in relation to our high school attainment?

    That looks to me like perfect match for what I'm after: putting the data in a form that lets other people jump in, splash around, and emerge better equipped to participate in civic discussion.


Updates and data on Kentucky education!