Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Graduation improves, mysteries shrink but continue

In 2009, Kentucky again awarded more public high school diplomas than the previous year, continuing a steady pattern of recent growth. 41,820 students graduated, marking 2.5 percent growth since 2008 and 12.0 percent growth since 2004.

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.
Finally, the mystery group is shrinking. When I add up diplomas, certificates, and dropouts, they still don't add up to the eighth grade testing number, but the missing group is a smaller share of the total: 2,400 in 2009 compared to 3,061 last year and 2,652 in 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. 


  1. I heard Lisa Gross today on the radio talk about the dropout rate in disaggregated terms. I just caught the tale end of her statement, so I'm not exacty sure what numbers she was quoting. Susan, do you know how to access the disaggregated drop out data by district?

  2. Kentucky has stood out for years because we said we could not produce those disaggregated graduation numbers while most other states got that work done. If the disaggregated numbers are available year, I'll be delighted by the breakthrough--but I haven't seen any sign of that data yet.

  3. The following statement was in the Courier-Journal this morning, so state level disag. data must be somewhere. No district level disag. data cited, but how did the state come up with its numbers? Isn't it's data the aggregate of what districts report? I'm befuddled the numbers can't be produced by district.
    "Hispanic and African-American students saw the biggest decrease in drop-outs after each hitting 6 percent in 2008, according to the data. The state drop-out rate last year was 4.1 percent for Hispanics and 4.9 for African Americans.
    Asians were the only group whose drop-out rate went up, climbing to 2.3 percent in 2009 from 1.8 percent in 2008. Gross said those numbers could be skewed by the low number of Asians, which total just 1 percent of the state's students."

  4. Aha! Dropouts! You can calculate dropouts after a single year. That's why they can do those this year. My brain was completely stuck on graduation rates that take longer.


Updates and data on Kentucky education!