Kentucky Joins States Tracking Individual Students’ Graduation Stats

For the first time this year Kentucky will use a new formula to determine public school graduation rates, which officials say should provide schools and districts with better data to improve their support for student achievement.

Forty-seven states already use the new formula called Actual Cohort Graduation Rate—also Cohort Rate—which tracks individual students in specific school cohorts. This means the days of averages and estimates is over, partly. Officials say the Average Freshman Graduation Rate (which averages 8th, 9th and 10th grade classes to compare to the graduating class), which was previously used will likely continue to be recorded in order to keep longitudinal data over several years.

But now with the Cohort Rate, schools will know exactly which students graduated from their individual school, showing a more accurate graduation rate, which officials say should allow states and individual schools to better target their resources.

In districts like Jefferson County Public Schools, the Cohort rate will help officials keep better track of the region’s high transient student population.

“If Bob goes to Eastern, goes to an alternative school, moves to Shelby County, comes back, whatever, Bob’s in that group and we’re going to find out whether Bob graduates in four years or if Bob graduates in five years,” says Bob Rodosky, JCPS’ director of data management.

The student will be counted in whatever school (or cohort) they end up in.

“Here we have a lot of movement, we have some other things, but this cohort thing is really going to help us.  I’m really convinced about it,” he says.

Kentucky sought a waiver after U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings announced schools would be moving to the Cohort Rate in 2008. Kentucky officials said they needed time to adequately develop its data management system, hence a delay.

“When they step into 9th grade for the very first time you have to be able to put a flag on their electronic record,” says Kentucky Department of Education’s Ken Draut. 

The process could also be used to identify the dropout rate as well. When a student leaves a school that doesn’t count against that school’s graduation rate if that student goes to a legitimate destination, such as another public school, a private school or if that student leaves for home schooling.

“So whose not in the [system] at the very end, it’s just kids who we have no record where they are, which means dropouts,” Draut says. The inverse of the graduation rate would therefore be dropout rate, he points out.

In a report released this week called Building a Grad Nation the analysis shows the first national look at the new formula. The report further shows the nation is on track to meet a 90 percent graduation rate by the year 2020, but several states including Kentucky are not on that same pace.

The report points out that graduation goals set by Presidents George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were never met.

Further, an article from Rueters says the report shows students with disabilities, limited English learners and Hispanic and African American students  still lag behind their peers.

As with most education systems implementations, there are quirky things to consider, the report says:

As with all new systems, the first release contains a few bugs that need to be fixed. Our analysis of the initial Cohort Rate indicates that differences remain in how some states calculate the rate. The differences are in three broad areas: who is a first-time ninth- grader; what constitutes a legitimate transfer out of the cohort; and what constitutes a regular high school diploma. As a result, we are not quite able to make consistent comparisons among states, as these issues appear to impact a state’s reported Cohort Rate by more than five percentage points. 

Devin Katayama

Devin Katayama host middays for WFPL and reports on education and other Louisville issues.

@DevinWFPL

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