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.