Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Kentucky Still Being Plied with Fictional Dropout Data

– Erroneous data hides seriousness of problems

Kentucky continues to have problems with low public school graduation rates and related high dropout rates; however, many continue to underestimate the seriousness of the situation thanks to inaccurate data provided by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE).

As discussions swirl around House Bill 189, which would raise the minimum school dropout age in Kentucky to 18, a new post over at the Bluegrass Politics Blog provides the latest evidence of the confusion being foisted on the public. That post cites bogus, overly optimistic KDE dropout rate statistics as though they are credible.

The facts are that the KDE’s statistics were audited by the Kentucky Auditor of Public Accounts in 2006 and found to significantly understate the true dropout situation.

Here is a better picture.

This graph, which is based on far more credible graduation rate calculations, shows that as of the 2006-07 school year, Kentucky’s public schools fail to graduate more than one in four students along with their peers. The graph also shows we have yet to fully recover from a long period of graduation rate decay that started after 1993 and ran until the year 2000.

Of course, the total flattening of progress in the 2006-07 school year isn’t particularly encouraging, either.

The “Freshman Graduation Rate” calculation used to create the graph has been extensively researched by the federal National Center for Education Statistics. Some of that research, reported here, examined the performance of various graduation rate formulas using data from two states where high quality student tracking systems provided high quality data. The “Freshman Graduation Rate” was the second most accurate formula examined, generally returning results about two points lower than the real figures in the two test states. Only one other formula worked slightly better, but that formula is more involved to use with available data from Kentucky. The error difference between the two formulas was quite small, in any event.

Whether HB 189 offers a good answer to Kentucky’s dropout situation is hotly contested. However, the dropout problem is much larger than many in this state want to admit, and we simply cannot afford to keep on losing so many students before graduation.

No comments: