Tuesday, June 1, 2010

They say down, I say up: Two takes on graduations

"Data from the 2008-09 school year show that Kentucky's public school students had slightly lower graduation rates than those in the 2007-08 school year," says the Department's press release, so I should explain a bit more about my upbeat post earlier today.

The main difference comes from different counts of students who should have graduated each year:
The Department sums up students who collected diplomas or certificates and then adds the number who dropped out of that class over four years.  That is a respected method, but comparing the resulting total to the eighth graders who participated in spring testing four years earlier shows a big difference.  I think the eighth grade count gives a better idea of how many should have graduated.  And yet, notice that the Department's count showed faster one-year growth.  Dividing by that bigger 2009 number is main reason KDE found a smaller graduation percentage.

There's also a difference in counting total graduates that looks like this:
Again, the Department used the first number, and I used the second.  The Department approach matches a common practice of wanting to know mainly about graduation in four years, and then adding in students whose disability justified the added time needed to earn a diploma.   That leaves out students who take more than four years to graduate without an IEP to explain the delay.   Dissenting, I value  every young adult who has earned a diploma equally. On this issue, the count I used grew faster than the one the Department's version.  

Combining the two results, the Department took a slower-growing graduate count and divided it by a faster growing potential-graduate count--and the result showed 2009 results as weaker than 2008.  I saw more graduate growth and less potential growth--and my results showed 2009 as stronger than the year before.

Note to the frustrated: Would it be better to divide graduates by the number of students who started grade nine four years earlier?  Yes, of course.  Doing it that way, though, depends on a student data system that assigns each student a unique identification number and then tracks each one, including each one who moves to a different school.  We've been talking about that approach at least since 1999, but we didn't get it fully launched until the fall of 2009.  It will take four years for that system to track its first ninth grade through to graduation, and then debates like this can finally come to a close.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Updates and data on Kentucky education!