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.
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.
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?