Search Results for: More on the quality control problems with Kentucky’s high school diplomas – Part 1

More on the quality control problems with Kentucky’s high school diplomas – Part 1

We posted a press release yesterday about disturbing evidence the Bluegrass Institute has collected that the quality control for Kentucky’s high school diploma is very inconsistent across the state’s school districts. Today, we dig deeper into a portion of the data in one of the Excel spreadsheets included with that press release.

We are going to discuss the top 10 and bottom 10 districts in our listing of the discrepancies between each district’s reported Four-Year Adjusted Cohort High School Graduation Rate for 2015 (ACGR) for all students and the district’s proficiency rate for all students during Algebra II End-of-Course Exams (EOC) in the 2013-14 school year. We look at Algebra II performance because Kentucky regulations stipulate competency in that subject is a graduation requirement.

Note that Reg Requires Algebra II Competency

We use the Algebra results from 2013-14, one school year earlier, for our comparison because Kentucky Department of Education staff indicate that most of our students take Algebra II in the 11th grade.

Now, check out the table below. If you are a parent or an employer, you want your local school system to rank low on this table, below the red shaded bar. School districts listed near the top raise the most questions about diploma quality.

For example, the top-listed district, Washington County, had a reported on time graduation rate, a 4-Year ACGR, of 98.6 percent. That looks really great until you check our estimate for the Algebra II proficiency rate in the district, which is only 6.7 percent. That creates a huge credibility gap between the reported graduation rate and a very strong indicator of what the real proficiency rate in a required graduation subject, Algebra II, actually is.

Algebra II Grad Rate Comparison

While a case might be made that not every student needs to pass the final exam to qualify as competent, the fact is that other districts, those shown in the bottom half of the table, clearly get the graduation rate to Algebra II proficiency rate a lot better, so this does raise quality concerns.

For example, in Caverna Independent, the match is nearly identical, and Caverna also shows it is possible for a large proportion of students to qualify as proficient on the Algebra II exam. Just above Caverna, the Hazard Independent School District also shows close agreement between its rather high, above state average graduation rate and Algebra II proficiency.

Unfortunately, just above Hazard, the disagreement between graduation rates and Algebra II proficiency rates starts to increase quickly. Murray Independent posts a very high graduation rate, but its Algebra II proficiency does not match pace. The discrepancies continue to climb as we work our way further up in the table.

So, if Algebra II really is supposed to be a graduation requirement, why do we find very high graduation rates in most Kentucky school districts when their Algebra II EOC proficiency rates are so much lower?

How could this not raise strong concerns that there needs to be a lot more quality control over the state’s high school diploma awards?

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Kentucky’s high school diploma quality control problems continue in 2016 – Part 2

I’ve been writing about obvious quality control problems with the award of high school diplomas in Kentucky for several years. Now, I am updating that work with results from the 2016 Unbridled Learning reports, and the situation remains very serious.

I opened this blog series yesterday with comments about how Kentucky’s official high school graduation rates compare to a more realistic appraisal of the proportion of those graduates who actually got an effective education, one that made them either college or career ready. This discussion makes it clear that Kentucky continued to hand out a lot of rather empty diplomas in 2016.

Today, I add more 2016-based evidence from a different sort of analysis based on the fact that Kentucky regulation 704 KAR 3:305, “Minimum requirements for high school graduation,” specifically requires all graduates to have competency in math through Algebra II.

This blog looks at the discrepancies between each district’s officially reported Four-Year Adjusted Cohort High School Graduation Rate for 2016 (ACGR) for all students and the district’s proficiency rate for all students during Algebra II End-of-Course Exams (EOC) in the 2014-15 school year.

As you will see, again in 2016 – just as we found in the 2015 data – the regulatory requirement for Algebra II mostly seems to get just a wink and a nod in many of Kentucky’s public school districts. Thus, the case that Kentucky’s high school diploma needs some serious quality control is strengthened by this alternate analysis.

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Kentucky’s high school diploma quality control problems continue in 2016 – Part 1

I’ve been writing about obvious quality control problems with the award of high school diplomas in Kentucky for several years. Now, I am updating that work with results from the 2016 Unbridled Learning reports, and the situation remains very serious.

Quite simply, there continues to be extensive evidence that Kentucky schools are handing out a lot of diplomas to students who cannot meet any of the official College and/or Career Ready (CCR) criteria and who probably don’t meet the state’s regulatory requirement that graduates are to be competent in math through Algebra II.

Even worse, the quality control in diploma awards varies widely by school district in Kentucky. For example, in the worst example from the new, 2016 CCR-based analysis, one school district officially reported an “on time” high school graduation rate of 91.7 percent although little more than one in four of that district’s 2016 graduates could pass muster under at least one of the official CCR criteria. The rest apparently got a somewhat hollow diploma that didn’t meet the state’s promise that our graduates will be ready for college and/or a career.

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More evidence Kentucky’s larger than average high school graduation rates might not be a good thing

I’ve recently been writing about a highly problematic report from Johns Hopkins University titled “For All Kids, How Kentucky is Closing the High School Graduation Gap for Low-Income Students.” The Hopkins report has many problems, but the biggest issue is fundamental. The report assumes that diplomas awarded in different states require the same level of academic achievement. That is an unfortunate stretch. So, in this blog, I examine some limited academic evidence from the ACT for states that can be reasonably compared to each other. The results further undermine the Hopkins report’s major assumption.

Click the “Read more” link to see the full story.

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Johns Hopkins gets honest about altering federal data – sort of

It took a lot of questioning and independent research, but the authors of a recent report from Johns Hopkins University called “For All Kids, How Kentucky is Closing the High School Graduation Gap for Low-Income Students” finally admitted – only after we collected some rather compelling evidence – that they altered high school graduation rate data in a federal report. The Hopkins researchers did that without initially being up front about what they did.

The impact of this tardy admission coupled with a number of other problems – such as the continuing flaw in the report’s fundamental assumption that high school diploma awards in different states indicate comparable academic achievement – significantly undermine the value of the report.

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Johns Hopkins changes their report after we raise issues

We have written several times in the last month (here, here, here and here) about a recent report from Johns Hopkins University titled “For All Kids, How Kentucky is Closing the High School Graduation Gap for Low-Income Students.”

It appears Hopkins is starting to listen – a little. After Hopkins and GradNation ran a webinar about the report yesterday, I accessed the report online again and found that an entire paragraph I raised issues about is now removed from Page 16. That paragraph unfairly and inaccurately characterized low-income student graduation rates in the Beechwood and Burgin independent school districts. Hopkins also made some changes to the way graduation data is reported in some of its tables.

However, the revised/corrected/updated report doesn’t seem to have any notice that it has been altered. That, at the very least, seems unusual.

Also, no one mentioned that the report had been altered in the webinar yesterday, and no one apologized to the school districts during the webinar. A question I asked during the audience participation period about the situation was not read, either.

So, we are getting a little improvement, but much remains problematic with this report, especially the basic assumption that diplomas awarded in different states represent similar levels of educational achievement. I seriously doubt that assumption is accurate for the nation, but I have put together very compelling evidence that just here in Kentucky there are no quality control standards from school district to school district as to what passes muster to get a diploma.

Thus, the basic underpinning for the Hopkins report remains in as much doubt as ever. There has been no defense from Hopkins that I have seen or heard regarding this very big stretch they are making that all diplomas are equal and that the conclusions they have derived from that questionable assumption are valid.

One more thing; during the webinar they showed a slide titled “Top-15 Districts with the highest percentage of non-grads, 2013-14.” That certainly sounds like slide where you don’t want to see your school district listed.

To my surprise, some pretty high performing districts like Boone County, Kenton County, Jessamine County and Warren County showed on this slide.

A careful examination of this slide showed that the percentages listed were not essentially dropout rates for each district. Instead, the slide showed the percentage contribution each district was making to the overall statewide non-graduate count. Since all of the districts have high enrollment, it is no surprise that they contribute more to the overall non-graduate total, but that doesn’t mean the districts are doing a bad job. However, that is what the very poorly chosen title of this slide implies.

So, if they ever get around to apologizing to Beechwood and Burgin, the Hopkins crowd now needs to smooth some feathers in most of our largest school districts that got highlighted, not for really bad performance, but just because they are large.

By the way, regarding Kentucky’s major problem with diploma quality control, we’ve written a lot. Hit the “Read more” link to see the listing.

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