Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates

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- Kentucky Transitional Calculation

The 2009 Nonacademic Data Report from the Kentucky Department of Education contains information on a new formula that will soon be used to officially report graduation rates in the state. As published in the Nonacademic Data Report, this formula, known as the Kentucky Transitional Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) formula, is defined in Appendix B of the report as follows:

AFGR Formula for Kentucky.jpg

The numerator of the formula adds together the total number of students who graduate at the end of a normal four year high school period with a regular diploma (G4) with those students who have Individual Learning Plans (IEP) that specifically provide that the student will need more than four years to graduate (GIEP). These IEP students generally have learning disabilities.

The denominator of the formula is the number of students who entered the ninth grade for the first time with the graduating class three school terms previously.

The G4 and GIEP data has been published by the Kentucky Department of Education for several years and is readily available for schools and districts, as well as statewide, in an excel spreadsheet titled, "Graduation Rates by District and High School.”

The first time ninth grade counts are not readily available from the Kentucky Department of Education. However, there is a way to calculate this information from other data that is available.

The first data sets required are the fall “Membership” counts of all ninth grade students. These counts are contained in the department of education’s annual "Growth Factor Ethnic Membership" Excel Spreadsheet Reports. These student counts, however, also include students who were retained (held back) from the previous school term’s ninth grade class. Thus the counts must be adjusted to determine the number of first time ninth grade students.

That adjustment is possible because the counts of retained students are also available in department reports, both in Excel spreadsheet formats that cover schools and districts, and in summary form for the state in the annually released Nonacademic Data Report previously mentioned. This data can be used to calculate the first time 9th grade entry figure for each school year.

Here is how this calculation works. The figure below shows that we know the combined number of first time ninth graders and retained students from the “Grade 9 Fall Membership” in each year’s growth factor report. We also know the number of students who were held back that are included in that Grade 9 Fall Membership. So, a simple subtraction calculation allows us to determine how many students entered the ninth grade for the first time.

Who Enters 9th Grade.jpg

Thus, with all required data available from 2003 on, it is possible to assemble the following spreadsheet which calculates the Transitional Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate for Kentucky from 2003 to 2008.

Transition Grad Rate Table Update 2.jpg

The resulting Transitional Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates are graphed here.

Transition Grad Rate Graph Update 2.jpg

For comparison, here are the officially claimed graduation rates from the Kentucky Department of Education’s new Nonacademic Data Report.

KY Grad Rates Graph.jpg

Notice that the officially reported rates run around six points higher than the rate from the Transitional AFGR calculation. Based on a first time ninth grade entering class sizes of about 50,000 students, the difference amounts to about 3,000 students who didn’t graduate even though current reporting from the Kentucky Department of Education indicates otherwise.

-A Longer Period Calculation

Unfortunately, data to calculate a Kentucky Department of Education Transitional AFGR isn’t available for the early years of KERA, but a fairly comparable calculation can be made.

The numerator of the formula is the total number of diplomas and certificates awarded each year, for which data is available in either on line or paper documents at the department for periods extending back before KERA was enacted. The more recent on line data on the total number of diplomas and certificates for graduating classes of 1993 and later are published under in the Transition to Adult Life section of the latest BRIEFING PACKET, Nonacademic Data from the Kentucky Department of Education.

The denominator of the equation is determined by subtracting the number of ninth grade students held back after the previous school term from the fall ninth grade enrollment of the graduating class in question. More recent retention data is also found in the BRIEFING PACKET, Nonacademic Data. Older data again comes from paper files at the Kentucky Department of Education.

A summary of the data used for the calculations for graduating classes from 1987 to 2008 is in this table.

Approximated AFGR Table.jpg

The resulting graph is shown here.

Approximated AFGR Graph.jpg

Notice that the Transitional AFGR formula the KDE plans to use returns rates (shown by the red line) about 2.5 points lower than the approximation (shown by the blue line). That is expected because the approximation does not remove the students who took more than four years to graduate and the students who only got a certificate of attendance from the numerator of the formula.

If we are talking about NCLB compatible graduation rates, then it must be remembered that the long term trend calculation above returns numbers that are about 2.5 points too high. However, the graph above is a fairly close approximation, and it shows that it is not appropriate to only consider graduation rates from around the year 2000 and later to claim great progress for KERA. In fact, Kentucky is only just now recovering from a very significant drop in graduation rates during the early KERA period.

In any event, the long-term trend is clear. Even after correcting for the number of students in each ninth grade class that were retained from the previous year, the most recent graduation rates in Kentucky today are scarcely better than they were back in the early days of KERA when the effects of the reform had not really reached the classroom.

Furthermore, if a reasonable adjustment is made to the 1999-00 graduation rate calculated in the table above, then it seems likely an NCLB Transitional AFGR for Kentucky that year would have been less than 70 percent.