Situation is much worse for black students
Back in early September I introduced our readers to a new concept in high school graduation rate reporting for Kentucky that I dubbed the “Effective High School Graduation Rate.”
My September 4, 2015 blog, “Kentucky’s Effective High School Graduation Rate,” provides a detailed explanation of this calculation, but to briefly summarize, by combining the official “Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate” from the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE) with the KDE’s official “College/Career Ready Rate” for those same graduates, we are able to calculate the percentage of each entering ninth grade class that graduates with a meaningful and effective education at the end of their four-year high school experience. The September blog examined the overall Effective High School Graduation Rate for all students. Now I expand the discussion with a breakout of the results for the two predominant racial groups in Kentucky, our whites and blacks.
Along the way, we will see that not only is there disturbing evidence of excessive social promotion to a high school diploma present in the data, but the situation is much worse for Kentucky’s black students. Far too many whites and blacks both are getting a hollow diploma at the end of their high school careers which is not accompanied by the education those students need to prosper in the current economy.
This table summarizes the last three years’ of Effective High School Graduation Rate performance.
The top section of the table provides the official “4-Yr Cohort Graduation Rate” and “College and Career Ready Rate” direct from KDE’s annually released Kentucky School Report Cards (available here). There are separate sections for the “All Student” data and for whites only and blacks only. Within each section we show our calculation of the Effective High School Graduation Rate for each of these student groups (again, details on how the Effective High School Graduation Rate is calculated can be found in the blog mentioned earlier).
The good news in the top half of the table is that we do see improvement in the Effective High School Graduation Rate over time.
The bad news in the top half of the table is the Effective High School Graduation Rates are very, very low, especially so for black students.
Below the thin horizontal blue line in the table we compute more information from the Effective High School Graduation Rates.
The first of these additional lines of data, appropriately highlighted in red, shows that the Effective High School Graduation Rate gap for white and black students has steadily grown over the past three years. For example, in 2012-2013 the white Effective Grad Rate was 50.5 while the black Effective Grad Rate was only 25.2. The difference was 25.3 points. In 2014-2015 the whites posted and Effective Grad Rate of 62.7 but blacks only had an Effective Grad Rate of 34.5, a difference of 28.2 points, an increase of 2.9 points from the 2012-2013 level. Increasing this gap is not what we want, but that is what happened.
The bottom half of the table has two more rows of data. The row for “Whites, Difference in Reported and Effective Grad Rate” shows the differences for Kentucky’s white graduates by year between the officially reported 4-Year Cohort Graduation Rate and the Effective High School Graduation Rate. For example, in 2012-2013, Whites posted an official 4-Year Cohort Graduation Rate of 87.6 but their Effective High School Graduation Rate was only 50.5. The difference was 37.1 points. This did improve to a difference of 26.5 points in 2014-2015, but the latest difference indicates that more than one in four white graduates in the latest school year still left high school unprepared for either college or a living wage career.
For black students, however, the difference between the number of diplomas awarded and the number of these students of color who were actually ready for either college or a living wage career is much more unsatisfactory. For Kentucky’s High School Class of 2015, while 80.1 percent of the blacks who started the ninth grade with this class got a diploma four years later, only a depressingly low 34.5 percent of the entering ninth graders got the education they needed with an Effective Diploma. The difference here, 45.6 points, signals a very large amount of social promotion to a hollow diploma is occurring for Kentucky’s black students.
Essentially, about twice as much social promotion is occurring for the state’s blacks compared to the state’s white students, and that can only spell serious problems downstream as minorities continue to contribute a growing percentage of the state’s overall population.
Several things are apparent in our Effective High School Graduation Rate data.
• Kentucky’s schools are engaged in far too much social promotion to a diploma where students get a piece of paper without the necessary education to prosper in the new economy.
• Black student social promotions to a hollow diploma are running at a much higher level than for the state’s whites.
• Kentucky’s officially published Cohort Graduation Rates do not give us an accurate picture of true school performance because there seems to be a significant quality control problem with Kentucky’s high school diplomas.
• Unbridled Learning school classifications based on the Cohort Graduation Rates provide misleading information about true school performance.
One more point should be made in closing. All the Effective High School Graduation Rates in the table above are calculated using the official KDE College/Career Ready numbers. Based on a study released by the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability in December 2014, which is now available from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission online, the official CCR numbers are most certainly too high.
Thus, the Effective High School Graduation Rates shown above are also too high. A quick estimate indicates they should be reduced by another 22 percent or so.
That would make the true Effective High School Graduation Rate for blacks in 2015 only around 27 percent or so.
Let no one cheer about that.