Sunday, July 10, 2011

An end to the lost, stolen, or strayed?

Something's changed.  Here's the picture, and then I'll explain.
For years, some Kentucky students seemed to disappear after middle school. I'd take the count of students who showed up for eighth grade testing and four years later I'd add up the count of graduates and dropouts from that class--and I'd come up near 3,000 students short.   Above, that mystery number is the final, darkest portion of the bar for each graduation year

Not this year.  This year, fewer than 500 students seem to have gone missing. 

In the graph above, I took graduates directly from the Department's reported number of graduates for each year.  I calculated dropouts by taking the 12th grade dropout count for that year, the 11th grade count for the year before, and 10th and 9th from the years before that.  Then I combined those two numbers and subtracted them from the students who participated in state testing four years back. The original eighth grade counts are shown below.

At a guess, the added accuracy is coming from the improved student information system that moved into full implementation two years ago, designed to track students individually from year to year and from school to school across the state.

Overall, though, it looks like a good sign: it looks as though we're getting closer to counting the students who don't collect diplomas accurately, and like we're also getting better at getting many of them through to high school graduation.

Source note: graduation and dropout numbers came from the Kentucky Department of Education's Nonacademic Indicators briefing, while testing counts came from the 2006 Kentucky Performance Report.


  1. Susan,

    What about the students who transfer into public schools from private schools that don't go beyond 8th grade? I know there are some out there. Do you know how many?

    Also, doesn't the graduation count you use include some kids who take more than four years to get through high school? Wouldn't you have to subtract those from the number of graduates if you are comparing to a specific group from the 8th grade?

  2. Thanks for the thoughts.

    Yes, you've spotted two possible additional explanations. The tend I'm seeing could be:
    • Keeping better track of public school eighth graders as they move through to graduations than we did a few years ago
    • More private schools students moving into the public schools than we was a few years ago
    • More students who repeat grade 9 nevertheless persevering to graduation.

    If there's a change of around 2,500 students in any one of those trends, or any combination of the three, that could explain the trend I'm seeing.

    I'd count all three and any mix of the three as good news for the health of Kentucky's public schools!

  3. Perhaps there is a trend among some school districts to just move their drop-out numbers to the home school column as does Walton-Verona Schools. Learn from the best--0% dropout for last 12 years.
    This practice gives a false indication of Kentucky's drop-outs and homeschoolers are not being tracked as they should. This tracking system is flawed.


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