A Kentucky Enquirer news article, “Grad requirements: Class of 2018 is in trouble,” talks about the disconnect between what public schools think is an adequate education to earn a high school diploma and what state leaders think should really be required. It appears Ohio’s educators are even upset about requiring the equivalent of just a 10th grade education to earn a diploma, wanting even lower standards to apply.
Well, high school diploma quality is a serious problem on both sides of the Ohio River.
Kentucky currently posts well above national average high school graduation rates – in 2016 the on-time, “Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate” was 88.6 percent – but other data indicate a startling number of those diplomas do not represent real readiness for what comes next in those graduates’ lives.
For example, Kentucky has well-defined criteria for determining what is considered readiness for either college or a career, offering students several methods to show such readiness. But, in 2016 only 68.5 percent of the state’s high school graduates were able to meet muster under at least one of those various criteria.
Put Kentucky’s 2016 graduation rate and readiness rate information together, and only 60.7 percent of the entering ninth grade students who should have graduated in 2016 actually did graduate with the skills needed to be ready for life. That essentially is an “effective” high school graduation rate of only 60.7 percent, far lower than the official 88.6 percent rate.
It gets worse.
Kentucky regulations stipulate that the state’s high school graduates are to be competent in math through Algebra II. Most Kentucky students take Algebra II in the 11th grade, but the proficiency rate on Kentucky’s Algebra II End-of-Course Exam in the 2014-15 school year was only 38.2 percent! That doesn’t line up well with those 11th graders’ graduation rate one year later of 88.6 percent.
Very simply, it looks like massive numbers of Kentucky’s 2016 graduates didn’t really meet regulatory requirements for graduation.
Considering this mass of evidence, it seems pretty obvious that many Kentucky students are getting a piece of paper without mastering required material and that those graduates are not ready for life, a publicly stated goal for education in Kentucky.
Regardless of whether we talk about Kentucky or Ohio, granting large numbers of students that coveted high school diploma doesn’t matter so much if they still are leaving school with inadequate educations. And, the rather compelling and extensive evidence from Kentucky shows that this problematic situation is exactly what is happening south of the Ohio River.