Feds say Kentucky’s 2012-13 high school graduation rate ranks among best in nation

Is that really right?

Could a true rate only be around 47 percent???

New data from the US Department of Education indicates that Kentucky’s 2012-13 high school graduation rate of 86 percent was only exceeded by nine other states. This rate is also notably higher than the US average of 81 percent. Those new numbers are based on a new way to calculate high school graduation rates called the “Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate” (ACGR).

Certainly, the grad rate news sounds really great, but I have concerns.

1) First of all, the state level Kentucky School Report Card for 2012-13 says that only 54.1 percent of Kentucky’s public school graduates were either college or career ready in that year. Combining that with the new graduation rate data, we can essentially say that out of every 100 students who entered Kentucky’s high schools four years earlier in the fall of 2009, 86 graduated. But, of those 86 graduates, only 54.1 percent – or about 47 students – were really adequately prepared for life. Were the other 39 students who got a piece of paper just socially promoted? It seems like that is the case.

In fact, the real situation could look even worse. In December the Kentucky Office of Education Accountability presented a report to a legislative committee that raised concerns about the real accuracy of Kentucky’s college and career ready numbers. It may be that some of the criteria used to determine readiness in Kentucky might not be sufficiently rigorous, leading to inflated readiness figures. If so, it may well be that even fewer than 47 out of every 100 who entered Kentucky’s high schools in 2009 really came out the other end with a solid education as opposed to a somewhat meaningless piece of paper.

2) In earlier years the Kentucky Department of Education reported graduation rates using a formula called the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR). Those reports included detailed information on the numbers and types of graduates such as how many students earned a standard diploma within four years of school entry, how many took more time to earn a standard diploma, how many students with an Individual Education Plan earned a diploma within five years (which also counted as a success), and how many received a certificate of attendance document. Kentuckians also received details on how many students were included in the calculation used for the denominator of the AFGR formula.

Now, it looks like all those old AFGR reports are gone in the Kentucky Department of Education’s web site. Old links to those reports no longer work. For example, this 2012 department news release provides a link to the 2012 data, but the link is broken.

So far, there has been no detailed release of similar information regarding the diplomas and certificates awarded to Kentucky’s graduates in either 2013 or 2014. Why?

So, I’ll reserve final judgment on the accuracy of the graduation rates until I get more data. However, even using the published graduation rates and readiness rates, it is clear that far too many Kentucky diplomas fail to honor truly successful educational accomplishment.

You could say that at best only 47 students out of 100 successfully graduated from Kentucky’s high schools in 2012-13, and that is a very sad situation.


  1. Richard, It’s important to continue to question graduation rates, such as the current ACGR. Additional questions that be asked by anyone concerned that statistics are inflated include:
    – How many of the graduates had to take “credit recovery” or summer school classes in order to meet KY graduation requirements?
    – In jurisdictions with charter schools, how did the original 9th grade cohort compare to the number of graduates?
    Are the following oversight checks in effect:
    – – Are teachers in KY high schools given the opportunity to review the lists of prospective graduates prior to graduation?
    – – Are teachers able to question potential suspected grade changes and improper diploma awards?
    – – Are the names of graduates publicly posted?

    • Richard Innes says:


      Thank you for your comments. I agree that continued vigilance is needed.

      I don’t think Kentucky has ever published information on how many graduates needed credit recovery or summer school. There have been some general discussions only, to my knowledge.

      Kentucky has no charter schools, so that issue does not apply, but I would submit the same question is also relevant in traditional public schools. As I mentioned in the main blog, that information isn’t being released.

      Regarding the oversight checks, I don’t think any of these are uniformly in use in Kentucky. In fact, I suspect very little auditing of the reporting, if any, is routinely conducted. I have not seen any reports about that. I do wonder if publishing graduate names would violate privacy requirements, however.

      Again, thank you for your thought-provoking input.


  1. […] This is true, but the statistic is nothing new. It is a rehash of information from the US Department of Education that I blogged about back in January. […]