Over at the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence’s blog, they just posted an item titled “How weak is Jefferson County?” which points out that this school district, by far Kentucky’s largest, ranks low for elementary and middle school test scores compared to other school districts in the state.
That is generally right on target.
Then, Prichard goes a bit astray, saying that the Jefferson County’s high schools do “importantly better.”
Actually, Prichard makes a very common mistake in its high school analysis by failing to consider Jefferson County’s serious high school dropout issues and how they impact the high school test results.
To show why this is important, I did a quick look in Education Week’s graduation rate Web tool.
[Side Note: Ed Week uses one of the better graduation rate calculations for its reporting. Forget Kentucky’s official rates, as they are inaccurate and have been officially audited and found in error]
Per Ed Week, the statewide average graduation rate in Kentucky in 2006 was 72.0 percent. In Jefferson County, it was far lower at 63.9 percent.
Even worse, as we pointed out a year ago in our “How Whites and Blacks Perform In Jefferson County Public Schools,” graduation rates in the inner city schools in Jefferson County are truly deplorable, with some schools losing more than half of their students.
If you drop a lot of kids out, it isn’t hard to look better on tests that are mostly given after the majority of the dropouts have left.
But, those scores are deceptive. They are even good enough to fool the Prichard Committee.
But, those uncorrected scores don’t support the idea that Jefferson County’s high schools really do a better job. If proper corrections could be made, I’ll bet the Jefferson County high schools would wind up looking a lot like the elementary and middle schools.