High School Graduation

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Many factors influence whether students graduate from high school on time, including the particular high school they attend and their academic performance before and during high school. The interactive figure above examines the relationship between the average prior performance of a school's 2009–10 and 2010–11 ninth graders on the eighth-grade math Kentucky Core Content Test (KCCT) (a proxy for students’ academic performance before high school) and two outcomes related to their high school success—on-time graduation rates and college-readiness rates, as measured by ACT scores. The figure allows readers to put Kentucky high schools’ graduation and college-readiness rates in context by identifying the average academic performance of their incoming students.

The default setting of the figure plots the average eighth grade math KCCT score and average on-time graduation rate for each public high school in Kentucky. High schools where incoming ninth graders had higher average eighth-grade math KCCT scores also tended to have higher on-time graduation rates. At the same time, differences in high school graduation rates existed among schools that served students with similar scores. For example, high schools where students’ average eighth grade math KCCT score was close to the state average of 44 (dashed gold line) had on-time graduation rates that ranged from about 78% to 95%. Likewise, high schools where the average on-time graduation rate was close to the state average of 87% (follow along the dashed blue line) had students whose incoming achievement varied substantially. These patterns suggest that although academic preparation prior to high school is important, it does not entirely explain the differences in on-time graduation rates across Kentucky high schools.

Explore Kentucky high schools’ on-time graduation and ACT college-readiness rates using the interactive features described below:

  • Switch Outcomes: Use the checkboxes below "Choose Student Outcomes" to switch between high schools’ on-time graduation rates and ACT college-readiness rates.
  • View Tooltip: Hover over a point to identify the high school it represents, along with the following information about the school: district name, district type, average eighth-grade math KCCT score, on-time graduation rate, ACT college-readiness rate, percent of students eligible for free/reduced-price meals, and total number of 2009–10 and 2010–11 ninth graders.
  • Highlight Specific Schools: Click on a point to highlight it. Schools that are highlighted will also be highlighted on the other figure in this section.
  • Select Specific Schools: Click on individual high schools in the sidebar’s "Select a School" drop down box to explore the average outcomes from particular high schools of interest.
  • Explore by District Type: Use the "Urban County", "Rural County," and "Independent" checkboxes in the sidebar to highlight schools according to their district type.

Example: 
Click the "ACT College Readiness" box to depict the percent of ninth graders who were ACT college ready. High schools whose incoming ninth graders had higher average eighth-grade math KCCT scores tended to have higher ACT college-readiness rates, on average. However, the average high school ACT college-readiness rate in Kentucky was 55 percentage points lower than the average on-time graduation rate. The disparity between high schools' on-time graduation and college-readiness rates is noteworthy given that college readiness is increasingly considered an informative benchmark of students’ postsecondary success.1

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This figure displays the distribution of on-time graduation rates and ACT college-readiness across Kentucky public high schools. In the default setting, the vertical axis labels the share of ninth-graders in 2009–10 and 2010–11 who graduated from high school on-time (in the 2012–13 and 2013–14 school years, respectively). Blue bars representing each Kentucky public high school are sorted along the horizontal axis from lowest to highest on-time graduation rate. This provides an overview of the range of on-time high school graduation rates in the state.

However, as the scatter plot above reveals, students’ prior achievement, as measured by eighth-grade math KCCT scores, are an important predictor of high schools’ on-time graduation rates. To account for this, readers can restrict this analysis to students in the highest and lowest quartiles of achievement based on their scores (click the "Top/Bottom Quartile" checkbox). This action allows exploration of the differences in on-time graduation rates across high schools, exclusively among students with similar eighth-grade math KCCT scores. The "Top-Quartile Students" side of the figure reveals that there is little variation in on-time graduation rates across Kentucky public high schools among their top-quartile students—the majority of high schools have on-time graduation rates above 90% for this group of students. In contrast, the "Bottom-Quartile Students" side of the figure reveals significantly more variation in on-time graduation rates.

Use the figure’s interactive tools to compare and contrast Kentucky high schools’ on-time graduation and ACT college-readiness rates among different groups of students.

  • Switch Outcomes: Use the checkboxes below "Student Outcome" to switch between high schools’ on-time graduation rates and ACT college-readiness rates.
  • Switch Student Subgroups: Use the checkboxes below "Student Subgroup" to view high schools’ average outcomes among all students, or exclusively among students in the top and bottom quartile of eighth-grade math KCCT scores.
  • View Tooltip: Hover over a bar to identify the high school it represents, along with the following information about the school: district name, district type, average eighth-grade math KCCT score, on-time graduation rate, ACT college-readiness rate, percent of students eligible for free/reduced-price meals, and total number of 2009–10 and 2010–11 ninth graders.
  • Highlight Specific Schools: Click on a bar to highlight it. Schools that are highlighted will also be highlighted on the other figure in this section.
  • Select Specific Schools: Click on individual high schools in the sidebar’s "Select a School" drop down box to explore the average outcomes from particular high schools of interest.
  • Explore by District Type: Use the "Urban County", "Rural County" and "Independent" checkboxes in the sidebar to view schools according to district type.

Example:
With the "Top/Bottom Quartile" checkbox selected, click the "ACT College Readiness" checkbox to show Kentucky public high schools’ ACT college-readiness rates among students in the top and bottom quartiles of eighth-grade math KCCT achievement. In contrast to the consistently high on-time graduation rates for students in the top quartile, there is significant variation in ACT college-readiness rates for top-quartile students. The opposite is true of variation among bottom-quartile students. While on-time graduation rates vary substantially across high schools among bottom quartile students, ACT college-readiness rates are consistently low.