Amount of social promotion to diploma still varies widely by student group
The 2018 assessment and accountability data has now been released by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE), and there are a huge number of changes. Many trend lines are now gone, including all of the high school end-of-course exam trends for English II (also formerly used for reading), Algebra II (Formerly used for math), biology (formerly the science data) and US History (formerly also social studies scoring). New science tests were used for the first time in elementary and middle schools, as well. And, of course, the overall Unbridled Learning school accountability scores and rankings died last year and the new system of star ratings (from 1 to 5) and other things won’t come online for at least one more year.
Along with many other changes, the KDE dropped its former calculation of the College and/or Career Ready Rate for each year’s high school graduates. That also kills our former calculation of the Effective High School Graduation Rate, as well.
But, we are introducing a new statistic based on the replacement for the College and/or Career Ready Rate (CCR), which is now shown as the Transition Ready Rate. This new statistic, while similar in concept to the old CCR rate, is actually calculated in a very different way. Thus, the KDE states the two should not be considered comparable, and I think that will definitely prove correct over time.
So, it is time for a new calculation, one that shows the percentage of entering ninth grade students who are graduating on time four years later with a sufficient education to qualify under one of nearly a dozen ways a student can be officially declared “Transition Ready.” Fortunately, the new calculation is quite similar to the old one, except now we multiply the still-being-reported 4-Year Adjusted Cohort High School Graduation Rate (ACGR) by the new Transition Ready rate and move the decimal point accordingly to develop what we will now call the:
TRANSITION-READY GRADUATION RATE (TRGR, which will undoubtedly quickly be pronounced “Trigger”).
Table 1 shows you the information for the 2017-18 TRGR calculations by various student groups. The source data for this is found in Tables 12 and 14 in the Kentucky Department of Education’s BRIEFING PACKET, STATE RELEASE, 2017-2018 Assessment and Accountability Results, dated September 26, 2018.
The first data column in the table shows the KDE’s officially reported Transition Ready percentages for various student graduate groups. These rates vary quite a lot, running from a high of 65.4 percent of whites who are Transition Ready to only 24.5 percent of students with disabilities who are able to meet even one of the numerous ways to be declared Transition Ready. That is a variation of 40.9 points.
The next column shows the 4-Year ACGR for various student groups from the KDE. These official numbers don’t vary nearly as much, running from a high of 95.1 for Asian students to a low of 74.7 for the learning-disabled group, a difference of only 20.4 points, half the variation seen in the Transition Ready figures. That actually looks pretty good compared to rates being reported in other states, but this is misleading, as we now show in the rest of the table.
The next column shows my calculation of the Transition-Ready Graduation Rate for each student group. Note that these rates vary dramatically from a high of 60.1 percent for white students to a low of just 18.3 percent for students with learning disabilities. That’s a spread of 41.8 points, which is even worse than the spread in the official Transition Ready numbers.
When you consider that even for the state’s white students, only about 60 percent of the entering ninth graders that should have been in the Class of 2018 actually graduated on time with a diploma that had at least a minimal amount of readiness for what comes next in life behind it, these are pretty scary statistics. But, it gets worse.
The last column in the table shows the difference between the officially reported high school graduation rates and our new TRGR. Ideally, if there were no social promotion for a student group, the number in this column would be zero. The higher the number in this column, the more social promotion to a diploma is going on for the related student group. Not one student group has anything close to a zero difference between its official 4-year grad rate and its TRGR. Even for whites, there is a 31.8-point gap between the proportion of students getting a piece of paper and the proportion of those graduates who arguably got at least a minimally successful education. For other groups, the gap becomes rather enormous.
And, it is particularly troubling that Kentucky’s African-American graduates in 2018 had about the same, very high amount of social promotion to a diploma that we see for the students with disabilities.
So, the bottom line here is even the revised statistics for 2018 make it abundantly clear that Kentucky has a huge problem with social promotion to high school diplomas, and that problem is even more severe for the state’s various student subgroups.
Keep that in mind the next time someone around you starts cheering about Kentucky’s high school graduation rate exceeding national averages. What Kentucky really might excel in is providing more rather hollow pieces of paper to students who never really got an education.
And, stay tuned. There will be a lot more once I get a chance to dig into the data more extensively.