Also, I like what I see when I compare those numbers to the number of students who participated in eighth grade testing four years earlier. The graduates are a growing percent of the students tested--81.5 percent compared to 80.8 percent last year and 78.7 percent five years ago. Certificates of completion have also grown. Dropouts during the high school years are unchanged from 2008 but notably improved from 2004.
Notes for number lovers: I use the testing count because I trust it. It would be very hard for districts to under-count students on the first day of testing, and essentially impossible for them to over-count the number of testing booklets students complete. I use grade eight because it's a late spring count of students who are likely to become first-time ninth-graders the next year. In a state that has historically been unable to separate students who have just begun grade nine from students repeating that year, it's the closest I've been able to get to the number of students we should want to see walking across the stage four years later. By all reports, Kentucky is now using a student data system that will solve this problem, marking students who entered ninth grade in the fall of 2009 and planning to track them through to graduation accurately.
Notes for those who want to see the original reports: The Department's newest reports are here, and include numbers for each district. From those files, the numbers I used for the calculations above are shown below.