The lady in this Fox News clip will give you some ideas.
One of the bright spots in the new Kentucky education report that came out on October 1 was that high school graduation rates in the state’s schools have risen a bit more and already are high.
But, while the state is handing out more paper to students, does this mean the education level is really improving? Is the graduation rate picture really that bright?
One way to examine these questions is to bring another reported statistic into the equation – the Transition Rate. This shows the percentage of the high school graduates who were able to meet at least one of the numerous ways a graduate can be declared ready for his/her next life transition. That transition might be to college or a living wage job like getting a welding certification.
There are lots of ways to qualify as transition ready, including:
Academic readiness, which can be achieved by performing well enough on:
- College Admissions Examination – The ACT
- College Placement Examination –KYOTE
- Dual Credit Course Completion
- Advance Placement (AP) with Appropriate Test Score
- International Baccalaureate (IB) with Appropriate Scores
- Cambridge Advanced International (CAI) with Appropriate Scores
Career readiness, which can be met with:
- Qualifying for Approved Industry Certifications
- Career and Technical Education End-of-Program Assessment Passage
- Assessment for Articulated Credit (KOSSA)
- Career and Technical Dual Credit (Complete six or more hours of Kentucky Department of Education-approved CTE dual credit and receive a grade of B or higher in each course)
- KDE/Labor Cabinet-Approved Apprenticeship (TRACK)
- KDE-Approved Alternate Process to Verify Exceptional Work Experience
(For more information see the department’s Transition Readiness Web page)
The point is that if a student cannot qualify under any of these Transition Ready criteria, that student very likely didn’t receive an adequate education and is likely to have some real problems in adult life.
So, here is how we compute what we at BIPPS call the Transition Ready Graduation Rate, a graduation rate that acknowledges the importance of getting a quality education as opposed to just getting a piece of paper.
We start with the Kentucky Department of Education’s officially reported Four-Year Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR). This basically shows the percentage of entering ninth grade students who graduate on time with their classmates four years later. If a school has an ACGR of 90.0, that means that out of every entering 100 ninth grade students for that graduating class, 90 graduated on time.
Now the Transition Rate statistic, also officially reported by the Kentucky Department of Education, shows the proportion of the graduates (not the 9th graders) that were able to meet at least one of the many ways to be declared transition ready.
Let’s say the same school with the 90.0% ACGR has a Transition Rate of 70%. That would mean that out of the 90 graduates, only 63 graduated with a transition-ready education. The rest might have gotten a lot less education than they will need for a decent adult life.
Now, recall we started with 100 ninth graders and now only have 63 of them with real transition readiness. That would be a Transition Ready Graduation Rate (TRGR) of just 63%.
In practice, we just multiply the reported ACGR by the Transition Rate (and move a decimal point around) to figure the TRGR.
The table shows how this has worked out over the past two years when the Transition Rate has been in use. The table also shows earlier, similar calculations for the time when the department used a statistic called the College and/or Career Ready Rate, or sometimes just the College and Career Ready Rate, in place of the new Transition Rate.
While the Transition Rate calculation isn’t quite the same as the College and/or Career Ready rate calculation, the comparison is still interesting. And, you can readily see that once we apply the Transition Rate information to the reported graduation rate, the picture for our students doesn’t look good at all. Sure, lots of kids are getting paper, but with a TRGR less than 60 percent, we are losing a really big part of each class either as dropouts or as paper holders who lack the education they need in life.
Stay tuned, because I have also worked up the TRGR for every public high school in Kentucky, and there are some really interesting things going on when the data is broken out in that increased detail.
Ample evidence provided by the latest test scores assessing Kentucky’s academic performance during the 2018-19 school year suggests too many of our students struggled academically and that the drama and disruption caused by teachers’ illegal strikes and school shutdowns exacerbated the problems.
The percentage of students in both Kentucky’s middle and high schools who demonstrated proficiency in the key academic areas of math, reading and writing dropped when compared to the previous school year.
Even more vexing is the fact that according to the latest KPREP numbers, more than half of elementary, middle and high-school students failed to demonstrate proficiency in grade-level mathematics.
Barely 35% of high school students statewide tested proficient in math, down from nearly 38% the previous year.
A major decline occurred in writing, where middle-schoolers scored more than 12% lower on this year’s scores.
Did the tumultuous environment caused by more than 1,000 teachers illegally abandoning their classrooms and causing schools to close while they protested in Frankfort affect students?
At the very least, none of the recent test results suggest the demonstrations aided middle-and-high-schoolers during a crucial period in their educational development.
In Jefferson County, where schools were closed for six days during the two-week period beginning Feb. 28, the district’s overall test scores tumbled and even more schools dropped into the lowest-performing category known as “comprehensive support and improvement” – or CSI – schools.
According to the Courier Journal, which called the district’s performance “equally disheartening” when compared with the rest of the state, “JCPS now accounts for 70% of the state’s lowest performing schools, up significantly from last year.”
How disheartening it must be for those parents who discover their children are among the thousands of students in CSI schools while knowing they have no options.
After all, many of the same individuals who were stirred up by their unions and special-interest groups into shutting down their schools to go yell at legislators in Frankfort about their pensions also protest against providing choices for parents who would prefer their children were in school learning instead of being pawns caught up in political grandstanding.
Had Kentucky already offered charter schools and scholarship tax credits, it’s likely many of those children whose classrooms were darkened in March would have been in school – learning, graduating and preparing for their futures.
Instead, the commonwealth’s own data indicate little more than 60% of students who actually make it to graduation are truly equipped to successfully transition to college or career.
This means nearly half of our ninth-graders are leaving high school either underprepared and receiving largely meaningless diplomas or completely unprepared and dropping out altogether.
Adding context to this picture is the fact that more than half of Kentucky 11th-graders failed to meet the ACT Benchmark Scores set by the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education and will have to take costly and inefficient college-remedial courses in English, reading and math.
In fact, the percentage of high school juniors failing to reach the benchmark increased in all three academic areas during 2018-19 compared to the previous school year.
The drama and disruption caused by the illegally striking teachers – which even forced JCPS to close schools on the day its 11th-graders were originally scheduled to take the ACT – must be considered.
These students were primed and pumped to take this test only to be forced to wait another month because of the antics occurring in Frankfort.
If you think that wouldn’t affect teenage test-takers, then you’re as naïve as those striking teachers misled into believing they have to do whatever their union bosses demand of them – even if it means damaging students’ futures.
Jim Waters is president and CEO of the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s free-market think tank. Reach him at email@example.com and @bipps on Twitter.
Editor’s note: The Bluegrass Beacon is a weekly syndicated newspaper column posted on the Bluegrass Institute’s website after being released to and published by newspapers statewide.
Do the new Kentucky School Report Cards say your school doesn’t have notable achievement gaps? Better dig deeper
There is a discussion brewing in social media about the large number of Kentucky schools that seem to have escaped any flags for having rather large achievement gaps between some student groups. I took a look at the gaps for white minus black reading proficiency rates in all our schools and found a notable number of schools have gaps that seem large enough to be of some concern.
Consider the high school situation shown in Table 1.
All of the listed schools have some pretty serious gaps.
In fact, out of the 75 high schools with usable data, 57 – or 76% – had gaps over 20 percentage points.
It is important to note that black, and in rare cases, white enrollment in a school is so small (less than 10 students) that scores for that group are not reported. In general, this means many Kentucky schools simply don’t have the data publicly available to examine their achievement gaps for whites and blacks. Outside of the 75 high schools that had scores to compute a white minus black reading gap, more than 150 other Kentucky high schools didn’t have the data available and we know nothing about possible gap issues for these two racial groups in those schools.
But, for the high schools that do have data, it is clear the reading proficiency rate gaps are highly problematic.
Now, here is something for everyone to consider: The new Kentucky School Report Cards allow you to drill down through a couple of web pages and eventually find out whether a school met the Kentucky Department of Education’s official threshold to report “SIGNIFICANT ACHIEVEMENT GAPS.”
But, when I did that for the Bardstown High School (bottom of Table 1 above), it only reported a significant gap for “Economically Disadvantaged compared to Non-Economically Disadvantaged” students. Do you think a gap for white minus black reading of 35 percentage points isn’t significant?
Or, move up in Table 1 to Lafayette High School. It’s white minus black achievement gap for reading of 44.7 percentage points is also not highlighted as significant in that school’s report card. The school does get flagged for other achievement gaps like “English Learners plus Monitored compared to Non-English Learners plus Monitored,” “Economically Disadvantaged compared to Non-Economically Disadvantaged” and “Disability compared to Non-Disability,” but that big white minus black gap has been ignored.
It turns out that the top school in the high school list, McCracken County High School, does get flagged for “African American compared to White,” but it took a gap exceeding 50 points for that to happen. There also were flags for several schools listed just below McCracken County High.
However, even Greenwood High School, despite a 47.5-point white minus black reading proficiency rate gap, does not get flagged.
That just doesn’t seem right.
There is more to the story, which you can access through the “Read more” link.
ALL CHILDREN DESERVE ACCESS TO A QUALITY EDUCATION
Scholarship Tax Credits give low-income parents the choice of being able to help their own children rise above the throes of poverty, giving them a brighter future by enrolling them in a more suitable school with the help of a scholarship.
- PARENTS DETERMINE THE BEST PUBLIC, PRIVATE OR PAROCHIAL SCHOOL FOR THEIR
- CHILD QUALIFIED FAMILIES APPLY TO A SCHOLARSHIP GRANTING ORGANIZATION (SGO)
- INDIVIDUAL, BUSINESS, OR SGO APPLIES TO THE STATE FOR A TAX CREDIT ON BEHALF OF THE DONOR
- DONORS ARE NOTIFIED OF TAX CREDIT APPROVAL WITHIN 30 DAYS AND CAN DONATE
- SGOs GRANT SCHOLARSHIPS TO QUALIFIED APPLICANTS
- RECIPIENT FAMILIES ENROLL CHILDREN IN THE SCHOOL OF THEIR CHOICE
- APPROVED DONORS RECEIVE A 95% CREDIT ON STATE TAXES
HOW CAN YOU HELP?
Call, email, or visit your legislators and ask them to support a scholarship tax credit policy!
(FRANKFORT, Ky.) – The Bluegrass Institute Pension Reform Team issued the following statement in response to the Public Pension Oversight Board’s recent discussion regarding transparency of Kentucky Retirement Systems (KRS) investment fees, which included a presentation by State Auditor Mike Harmon.
The Bluegrass Institute has always been a strong advocate for government transparency. To that end, we applaud the steps taken by Kentucky Retirement Systems executive director Dave Eager and board chairman Dave Harris to bring increased accountability to the KRS investment process. The days of opaque contracts with shadowy placement agents and ill-fated investments such as KRS’ investment in the Camelot venture capital fund are gone but not missed.
While progress has been made, more transparency is needed to protect the future integrity of Kentucky’s public-pension investments. Senate Bill 2 was passed in 2017 to accomplish this goal. One of the requirements is the public disclosure of the individual management fees charged by each outside investment advisor. Prior to SB 2, the fee structure that was publicly disclosed was an aggregate amount for all money managers and the fee structure for individual managers was typically not disclosed.
While we support individual fee disclosures for all investment advisors who compete to manage Kentucky’s pension assets, we believe that applying this requirement retroactively to contracts that existed prior to SB 2 would compromise the relationships between our public-pension managers and their outside advisors, making it more difficult for our managers to invest and exposing them to the risk of future litigation. Applying these new price-transparency laws only to advisors under contract after SB 2 was passed seems like the best way forward.
Our recommendation is to apply the new fee-disclosure requirement prospectively to the investment advisors approved after SB 2 was passed, and to allow those entities who entered into contractual agreements with our public pension systems prior to SB2 to have the option to disclose individual fees beyond the requirements of the original contracts. TRS and KRS should continue to publicly disclose the aggregate fee structure for all outside investment advisors as before.
Contact Jim Waters at firstname.lastname@example.org, 859.444.5630 ext. 102 (office) or 270.320.4376 (cell).
The Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Kentucky’s first and only free market think tank, has been offering commonsense ideas to solve the commonwealth’s greatest challenges since 2003.