FRANKFORT – When it comes to grading Kentucky’s public elementary and secondary schools, what ultimately counts most is whether our graduating students are truly ready for college and a career.
Over the last several years, one of the state’s newest agencies – the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics – has been helping measure our progress in this area. Its work is more than just a survey; it’s an in-depth look at an entire graduating class.
Last month, the agency released its latest findings, which showed that nearly two-thirds of the 43,000 students who graduated from our 227 public high schools in 2012 went on to college in the fall. In five high schools, the college-going rate was at or above 90 percent.
Like the nation as a whole, this study re-affirms that women are much more likely to pursue a college education than men. More than two-thirds of young women in the 2012 class went that route versus 54 percent of the young men.
About nine out of 10 of that class’s college freshmen, meanwhile, attended school full time that fall, with little more than half pursuing their bachelor’s degree.
In a separate but similar study, the center also took a closer look at how well the high school class of 2011 did during its freshmen year at college. The agency’s acting executive director said the results show two distinct groups: Those who were college-ready, based on their ACT and placement exams, earned just shy of 23 credit hours as freshmen and had a grade point average of 2.65 out of a possible 4.0. Almost 90 percent came back for their second year.
Those who were not college-ready out of high school, however, had a predictably tougher time. They earned just 12 credit hours, had a GPA of 1.8 and less than 70 percent returned to campus the following fall.
A few weeks before these two reports were made public, the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood released a study centered on those just starting out in school.
It showed that exactly half of incoming kindergartners were ready for the challenges ahead. While many were rated highly in language development, less than 40 percent were average or better academically.
Poverty is a major factor behind this trend. According to this study, nearly a third of Kentucky’s children five and younger live in households below the poverty line, which is about $24,000 for a family of four. More than half live in households earning 200 percent or less of the poverty rate.
During this year’s legislative session, the General Assembly adopted several laws designed to help our students, especially the younger ones, thrive. One calls for implementing a rating system for early childcare and education programs, including Head Start and publicly funded preschool. This will measure classroom quality, teacher training and how well these programs interact with the students’ families and the community.
Another law establishes the Kentucky Child Care Advisory Council, and the third calls on the Department of Education to provide more training to help school personnel better recognize and report child abuse and neglect.
While Kentucky’s schools have made significant strides over the years, there is always room for improvement, and these studies help us better know which areas need more focus or funding. As we work to stretch each tax dollar, that kind of analysis is more important than ever, and it better serves the students as well.
If you would like to let me know your views about this issue or any other, please don’t hesitate to contact me. My address is Room 366B, Capitol Annex, 702 Capitol Avenue, Frankfort, KY 40601; or you can email me at [email protected].
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I hope to hear from you soon.