During the March 1, 2011 meeting of the Kentucky House’s Education Committee, committee chair Rep. Carl Rollins asked Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday how many high school “dropout factories” did we have in Kentucky.
Dr. Holliday’s stunning answer was – about 50!
The state only has around 230 Class A1 high schools total, which are the only high schools that report graduation rates. If Holliday is right, over one in five Kentucky high schools would be a “dropout factory.”
By the way, the term “dropout factory” was coined by a research team at Johns Hopkins University to identify high schools where the graduation rate is lower than 60 percent based on a formula also developed by Johns Hopkins.
More recently, the US Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has used that term, indicating across the nation that there are 5,000 dropout factory high schools. Commissioner Holliday informs me his “50” estimate is based on the assumption that Kentucky will have about one percent of that nationwide total of 5,000 high schools.
It isn’t clear if the US Secretary of Education is using the Johns Hopkins definition and data for his 5,000 dropout factory figure or another approach, perhaps based on the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) formula that Kentucky will start using to report graduation rates this summer.
I did some quick AFGR calculations for the 2008-09 school year using the appropriate years’ information on fall membership and on-time graduations from the Kentucky Department of Education. In 2008-09 my spreadsheet shows Kentucky had about 15 high schools with gruesomely low graduation rates below 60 percent (three schools were missing some data for a 2009 calculation and were not included, but at least one of those schools had very poor performance in the past).
Of course, even a 70 percent graduation rate is way too low in my book. We do indeed have about 50 high schools as of 2008-09 with AFGRs below 70 percent. Again, that is more than one out of five of our Class A1 high schools in Kentucky.
Dr. Holliday indicates the Kentucky Department of Education is computing AFGR figures now for several back years so we will be better prepared when this becomes the official formula for graduation rate calculations. I’ll post on those “official” department AFGRs as soon as the data is available.
One thing is very certain – a lot of Kentucky high schools, and the students and parents they serve, are about to face a very rude shock.