Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Kentucky caught fudging graduation numbers

The new “Graduation Counts 2008” report from Education Week has been issued less than a week after the Kentucky Department of education released its own “Nonacademic Data Report” for Kentucky’s public schools. The new Education Week data exposes some very disturbing holes in what we are being told about the performance of our schools.

For example, the Graduation Counts Web articles include a special Kentucky section that shows us how well Kentucky’s education leaders disseminate high school graduation rates.

The state report claims statewide high school graduation rate for Kentucky’s Class of 2005 was 82.86 percent. Education Week’s Kentucky section has a sort of “lie meter” on Page 7 that shows the real rate was much lower – over 11 points lower – at just 71.5 percent. Nationally, Kentucky ranks below the median in 29th place among the 50 states.

There is more interesting information from Ed Week.

While the national spread between graduation rates for boys and girls is 7.5 points in favor of the ladies, here in Kentucky the spread is notably higher at 9.8 points. Why is KERA less successful with boys than girls?

Hispanics in Kentucky also do much more poorly than the national average with a graduation rate disparity of 49.4 percent versus 57.8 percent.

Kentucky’s whites also graduate at a rate 5.2 points below the national average of 77.6 percent.

Only Kentucky’s blacks do slightly better than their national counterparts, but their graduation rate of just 58.2 percent is hardly a testament to KERA.

Not surprisingly, you won’t find these minority graduation rates in the state’s Nonacademic Data Report. You have to go to more honest sources like Education Week if you want that information. Here in Kentucky, our educators prefer to continue using data that has been officially audited and found unreliable, which is how Kentucky comes up with an inflated 82.86 graduation rate in the first place.

Bluegrass Institute education analyst Richard Innes wrote this post.