Monday, March 1, 2010

Alabama gets honest with high school graduation rates – And they plummet!

Alabama joins the growing group of states that now have high quality student tracking systems that can support the US Department of Education’s Cohort Graduation Rate calculation.

As is usual when states get honest, the graduation rate plummets. Under its old formula, Alabama claimed a high school graduation rate of 86 percent. One year later, using the new formula, the 2009 rate dropped 21 points to only 65 percent.

By the way, I checked the most recently available graduation rate for Alabama using the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) calculation that Kentucky could use right now, and which the Bluegrass Institute is already using.

In 2006-07 Alabama had an AFGR of 67.1 percent, which is pretty close to the actual rate of 65 percent the state just posted. In fact, the two-point difference agrees well with earlier federal studies that show the AFGR slightly over-reports the true rate.

The Kentucky Department of Education currently claims the fiction that our high school graduation rate is 84 percent for 2007, remarkably close to Alabama’s old fiction.

The US Department of Education shows our AFGR was 76.4 percent in 2006-07. Based on the federal research and Alabama’s experience, I estimate our true rate was probably around 74 percent, nearly 10 points lower than officially reported.

So, we didn’t mislead as badly as Alabama did, but we are being a lot slower about getting honest about it.

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