Knox County Public Schools Versus Corbin Independent Schools

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Recent action by the Knox County Board of Education ending a long-standing student transfer agreement with Corbin Independent Schools has triggered considerable parent outrage. According to the latest available information, over 400 students who live in the Knox County service area may lose their former rights to attend schools of their choice in Corbin Independent system.

Most of the outrage and complaints are coming from Knox County parents who send their students to Corbin schools, and the data presented in this article will make it clear why this is the case as we look at comparative performance data for the two school systems.

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Advanced Placement Course Differences

Corbin High School is participating in a highly aggressive and successful partnership with Advance Kentucky to increase Advanced Placement course participation.

Advance Kentucky’s initial progress report on this program is extremely encouraging. For example, in 2009 Advance Kentucky says its 12 participating high schools accounted for an astonishing 32% of state’s total new increase in the number of students earning AP scores of 3 or higher in Math, Science and English courses although those 12 schools serve only seven percent of Kentucky’s high school enrollments.

Neither Knox County high school participated in the initial cohort of Advance Kentucky schools. Neither Knox County high school is participating in the second Advance Kentucky cohort, either. That says something about the relative interest in Advanced Placement courses in the two school systems.

Corbin graduates more kids

Another reason why parents would clearly prefer the Corbin Independent Schools to those in the Knox County School District concerns high school graduation rates.

First, it needs to be noted that Kentucky’s official high school graduation rates are not trustworthy. They were audited in October 2006 and found seriously inflated.

Thus the formula used here, the ‘Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate’ (AFGR), is one that has been thoroughly researched by the US Department of Education. It is a MUCH more accurate formula than the one currently used by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). In fact, the KDE has announced it is switching to the AFGR in 2011.

The 2008 AFGRs in the two school districts are very different, as this next figure shows.

Corbin Knox Grad Rate Graph.jpg

The graduation rate data is very clear.

A high percentage of the kids in Corbin graduate.

About one in three kids in Knox County doesn’t.

Note: Here is the data used to compute the AFGRs in the figure

Corbin Knox Grad Rate Table.jpg

The enrollment data comes from annual Growth Factor Reports for the listed years and the graduation counts are from the 2008 ‘Grad Rate 0408’ Excel Spreadsheet.

In line with No Child Left Behind definitions – only students who graduate with a regular diploma in the standard four years of high school plus students with learning disabilities who get a regular diploma within five years (IEP-5) are included in the graduation counts.

Test results from the ACT, Inc., show Corbin outshines Knox

The ACT, Incorporated, which is the publisher of the well-known ACT college entrance test, now also produces tests for eighth grade students known as the ACT EXPLORE tests and a test given to tenth grade students called PLAN. EXPLORE and PLAN tests are coordinated with the ACT tests to indicate if students in the eighth and tenth grade are on track to getting a good education.

Recent data on EXPLORE, PLAN and the ACT are available for all Kentucky schools

EXPLORE results

The first graph in this section compares the scores for the EXPLORE test for the two schools in Knox County that have an eighth grade to the results for the middle school in the Corbin Independent School District.

The bold black horizontal line on the graph shows the most recently available national norm composite score for EXPLORE which was developed from 2005 testing. Keep in mind that this norm is somewhat dated. However, it is clear that Corbin's middle school scores well above the available national norm while both Knox schools with EXPLORE scores score well below that 14.9 figure.

Furthermore, EXPLORE is only a 25 point maximum test, so the differences shown between Corbin Middle School and the two schools in the Knox County School District are very notable.

In fact, the Lynn Camp to Corbin difference is extremely significant. Furthermore, the gap between Corbin Middle and Lynn Camp grew from 2.9 points to 3.4 points over the four years where EXPLORE data is available for all Kentucky schools. The gap also grew between Corbin Middle and Knox County Middle, as well.

Corbin-Knox EXPLORE Scores for 4 Years.jpg

It is also interesting to see how the three middle schools rank against the other middle schools in Kentucky. This next graph shows that over the past two years Corbin Middle School ranked close to the top for EXPLORE performance while both schools with eighth grades in Knox County ranked close to the other end of the performance spectrum. In fact, for middle school performance, Corbin is now very close to the very top performance in the state.

Knox - Corbin EXPLORE Rank to 2009-10.jpg

PLAN results

The next graph shows the four-year trends in PLAN scores for Corbin and Knox high schools.

Once again, the unquestionably superior academic performance of Corbin's high school is readily apparent.

It should also be noted that the Lynn Camp High's PLAN scores were actually notably lower in the latest testing than they were back when Kentucky started to test all students with PLAN in the 2006-07 school year.

Corbin-Knox PLAN Scores for 4 Years.jpg

A ranking of the tenth grade PLAN results for the past two years shows an even more striking pattern for Corbin versus Knox County high schools than is found for the two districts' middle schools. Corbin's high school improved its already ranking slightly while Knox County lost ground in both of the high schools against other schools that got PLAN scores reported in 2009-10.

Knox - Corbin PLAN Rank to 2009-10.jpg

ACT results

The final graph in this section shows the most recently available ACT Composite scores for 11th grade testing in the two school districts. These scores are for 100 percent testing of all 11th grade students with the ACT, which started in Kentucky recently.


As you can see, once again Corbin Independent does a much better job of getting students ready for postsecondary education.

Though none of the scores shown here are good enough compared to the ACT scores that indicate good college preparation, it is clear that Corbin schools are doing a much better job with most of its students than Knox County Schools are doing.

No Child Left Behind

The two high schools in Knox County perform much worse on NCLB academics than Corbin Independent’s high school does. The following tables summarize the most recently reported performance of the three schools. Areas where a school failed to meet NCLB requirements are circled in red for easy reading.

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Most kids in Corbin Independent learn math and reading.

Most kids in Knox County don't learn math, and in Lynn Camp, most don’t read well enough, either. In fact, there simply is no comparison between Corbin High and Lynn Camp High School. No informed parent would be likely to chose the latter school over the former.

It’s really about money

The attempt to corral kids into the Knox County schools has nothing to do with giving them better educations. Instead, this is very simply a grab for money and power. But, what is really amazing is that Corbin Independent is generating its much better academic performance at a much more reasonable cost than Knox County.

The latest available audited data on per pupil revenue, which comes from the 2007-2008 Receipts and Expenditures report, from the Kentucky Department of Education, shows Knox County already takes in more money per pupil than Corbin Independent does, but that apparently isn’t stopping the Knox Board of Education from going after more.

Knox Corbin Funding.jpg

Corbin shines, getting MUCH better academic performance with far fewer dollars.

This graph leads to another issue. It may be that every taxpayer in Kentucky has a “dog in this fight.”

Since a lot of the money involved comes from statewide, tax-funded SEEK dollars and from federal tax dollars – all of which Kentuckians across the entire state must pay – why, exactly, would any Kentucky taxpayer want to force kids back into the more expensive Knox system when students get much better educations in Corbin, at much lower cost?

By the way, the difference in state-plus-federal funding sent to Knox versus Corbin Independent was $1,527 per pupil in the 2007-2008 school year. It looks like if around 400 students must return to Knox schools, then across the state the taxpayer will get hit for over $600,000 more to fund this loss of parent choice that forces kids into lower performing schools.

Worse, since Knox schools have a much, much lower graduation rate, the real costs over the lifetime of these students could run many times that amount.

So, maybe Kentucky taxpayers need some representation when the Kentucky Department of Education considers Corbin Independent’s appeal of the transfer agreement cancellation. It looks like everyone in Kentucky could have a lot of money at stake here.

See Also