An excellent South Carolina based transparency site has been asking some great questions about whether school superintendents are “earning their keep”. The premise of the post is that the highest paid superintendents’ districts are performing mediocre at best.
On August 2, 2011, the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) released two sets of high school graduation rate data for the Class of 2010. One data set was calculated in accordance with current federal No Child Left Behind requirements, and I have already posted several blogs on that data here and here.
A second set of graduation rate data was also calculated using a Kentucky-only formula that attempts to give schools credit for students who take an extended time to earn a regular diploma and for students with learning disabilities who earn a Certificate of Completion but don’t meet the requirements for a regular diploma.
While it is worthwhile to recognize schools that stick with students who take more than the standard four years to complete high school, the Kentucky-unique formula is incorrectly described in the Briefing Packet for the new data release.
Furthermore, there are some important assumptions being made that the briefing packet also fails to mention. It remains to be seen if those assumptions prove valid once we get good quality graduation rate data in 2014.
The Briefing Packet says this is the formula the KDE used (click on it to enlarge, if necessary) (Note: IEP refers to students with learning disabilities who have an Individual Education Plan that stipulates they will need more than four years to graduate from high school):
Formula KDE Claims It Used
Examination of the Excel spreadsheet “KY_AFGR” in the KDE web site shows this is not what was actually used for the calculation. Instead, the numerator also included an additional factor, called “Graduates with Diploma in 4+ years.” These non-learning disabled students earned a regular high school diploma, but they took more than four years to do so.
The KDE’s spreadsheet also implies that had some students received a Secondary GED, then those students would also have been included as graduation successes; however, in 2010 no such GEDs were awarded.
It is important to note that this formula makes some very important assumptions/projections that the Briefing Packet does not mention.
The formula assumes the cohort for the Class of 2010 will produce more graduates in the future that will exactly equal the numbers of students who entered high school before 2006-07 and then earned regular diplomas in more than four years in 2010.
Two separate groups of students are involved:
• Non-learning disabled students who entered high school before 2006-07 and took more than four years to earn a regular high school diploma
• Learning disabled students with Individual Education Plans (IEP) who entered high school before 2006-07 and took more than four years to earn a regular high school diploma
None of these students entered school in 2006-07 with the cohort of the Class of 2010. They are counted in the Kentucky AFGR formula as a predictive proxy for members of the cohort of the Class of 2010 who have yet to graduate. Again, we’ll have to wait until 2014 – and the first accurate graduation rate data based on high quality student tracking systems – to find out how well these approximations really work.
The Kentucky Department of Education finally released the high school graduation rate report for the Class of 2010.
However, the data is all lumped together into one, massive Excel spreadsheet. That makes it impossible to easily see how districts perform against each other.
So, we disaggregated the data into a series of tables that show how each district ranks for No Child Left Behind compliant graduation rates.
There are separate tables for all students as well as each major minority group found in Kentucky.
Everything can be found in freedomkentucky.org wiki item:
By the way, the graduation rates reported here use the Federal Government’s Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate calculation. This formula was extensively researched in 2006 and found to be the best available for states like Kentucky that don’t have high quality student tracking data to compute the very best information.
Kentucky won’t see its first set of high quality graduation rate data until 2014, which will tie us for last place in getting such baseline performance data for our schools.
In the future, we plan to run a similar series of tables for individual high schools, so keep tuned.
Kentucky State Education Board and Department of Education inject a good weighting scheme for new assessments
Reversing a very contentious decision from the June meeting of the Kentucky Board of Education with Kentucky Department of Education staffers, a very weak plan for weighting various elements of the new Kentucky public school assessment program has been revised.
Now, the Kentucky School Boards Association reports the following weights will be used:
• 70 percent – “Next-Generation Learners” areas, which include test scores in reading, math, science, social studies and writing, achievement gap reductions, growth in the reading and math areas, students who meet college and career readiness targets and, for high schools, the graduation rate
• 20 percent – “Next-Generation Instructional Programs and Support,” which includes the program review results for subjects such as arts and humanities, practical living, world languages and additional writing areas
• 10 percent – “Next-Generation Professionals,” which includes effectiveness ratings for teachers and principals
Special interests, largely groups representing the arts and humanities and world languages teachers, swayed the board at its June meeting, resulting in a very unsatisfactory weighting scheme of 50/30/20. That would have provided far too much weight to the very subjective areas that will receive program reviews and staff reviews.
In sharp contrast, core academic subjects would have received far too little emphasis, a problem the board and the education department heard about after its June decision from many sources, including yours truly.
The fact that the board listened – and made these changes – is a hopeful sign for Kentucky’s new assessment program.