Tuesday, March 22, 2011

National dropout conference meets as Kentucky debates dropout age

Too many Kentucky high schools graduate too few

Data implies Age 18 dropout age minimum doesn’t work

As our legislature debates the merits of raising the minimum high school dropout age in Kentucky from 16 to 18, a national conference is meeting to discuss the serious problem of dropouts across the nation. Along with other materials, a conference team from The Everyone Graduates Center has provided an analysis that has charts showing how many ‘Dropout Factories’ are found in each state. The disturbing finding, as of 2009 Kentucky had 22 high schools which meet the Johns Hopkins University’s criteria of less than 60 percent graduation success to be labeled as ‘Dropout Factories.’ The same web data provides some interesting new information regarding the attempt to raise Kentucky’s dropout age to 18. Earlier, I assembled a quick study in a blog that looked at trends in federally reported Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates for states that had an Age 18 minimum dropout age in place for at least four years. My study showed few of the 15 states with at least four years of Age 18 experience had a trend in graduation rate improvement that even matched the national rate. Now, using some of the data from The Everyone Graduates Center and Johns Hopkins University, I assembled the tables below which shows how Kentucky ranks for dropout factory performance against the same 15 states that have already shifted their minimum dropout age to 18. This first graph shows the percentage of high schools in the Age 18 states that are dropout factories. The schools with the lowest percentage of dropout factories rank at the top in this listing. Notice that even without a current age 18 limitation, Kentucky already ranks around the middle in this listing. Given the large variation in graduation rate performance shown in this first table, it is clear that a minimum dropout age of 18 provides no guarantee of good performance with the Johns Hopkins data. We can also look at the percentage of students in each state that are trapped in dropout factories. This next table looks at all students. On this metric, Kentucky looks even better compared to the states that already have moved to age 18. Finally, here is a similar table for minority students. Once again, Kentucky is already doing better than a notable number of the age 18 dropout minimum states. So, why would we want to emulate the general performance of Age 18 states? We already do better than many of them. The new Johns Hopkins data adds to the earlier evidence from the National Center for Education Statistics on Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates that I discussed in the earlier blog. The data indicates that an Age 18 dropout restriction, by itself, does not guarantee good graduation rates. Does Kentucky have a dropout problem? YOU BET! Will trapping kids in school until age 18 help? Probably not. Technical Note: You can access the data used to assemble the tables above by logging on here. This brings up a web page with the Kentucky data. Click on the graph in the lower right of the section near the top of the web page to find the graph showing “Number and Percent of High Schools with Weak and High Promoting Power Ratios.” To access the other states’ data, scroll to the bottom of the Kentucky page, where a US map allows selection of other state profiles. Then, click on the charts for that state to select the graph showing “Number and Percent of High Schools with Weak and High Promoting Power Ratios.”

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