All of the student and school data used in these analyses are from the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS), which houses Kentucky’s statewide longitudinal data system. KCEWS collects and combines data annually from a number of education and workforce agencies, including KDE, the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, and the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board. In addition, KCEWS combines student-level high school data with college enrollment and persistence data from the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC). The maps in this report use district boundaries from the US Census Bureau and college location data from the National Center for Education Statistics.

National Student Clearinghouse 

SDP’s college enrollment and persistence statistics, calculated using matched NSC records, are intended to highlight trends and differences across schools and districts in Kentucky; they are not intended to be used for accountability purposes. The NSC is both the lowest cost and most reliable source for college outcomes. Alternatives, such as student surveys or verification via direct outreach to colleges, exist but tend to be more costly and prone to systematic inaccuracies (e.g. due to gaps between students’ intentions stated in surveys and actual enrollment outcomes).

The NSC does, however, have several notable limitations, namely the non-participation of particular colleges and universities, the blocking of individual records for privacy reasons, and instances where high school and college records do not match. In Kentucky, NSC-participating institutions cover approximately 94% of Kentucky undergraduates and approximately 92% of undergraduates enrolled in neighboring states, and 0.6% of individual student records are blocked. Given this, the results reported in this study can be thought of as a lower bound on college enrollment rates. It is important to note that local circumstances, such as a high school located near a large university that does not partner with the NSC, may have a substantial influence on the college outcomes in this report for particular high schools. Thus, readers should be particularly cautious when interpreting school-level results. 

College Readiness

Kentucky high school students have multiple opportunities to demonstrate college readiness. The Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education has set college readiness benchmarks on three separate exams: the ACT, as well as the Kentucky Online Testing (KYOTE) and ACT Compass college placement tests. In this report, SDP uses a simplified measure of college readiness. Students are classified as college ready if they ever scored at least 18 in English, 19 in math and 20 in reading on the ACT. (This differs from the definition of ACT college readiness used in earlier SDP Kentucky College-Going Diagnostic analyses. Previously, students were defined as college ready only if they met the ACT English, math and reading benchmark scores during the state administration of the test junior year.) In contrast, KDE reports students as college ready if they met the benchmark on any of the three exams (ACT, ACT Compass, or KYOTE).

SDP uses a cohort based-formula to calculate ACT college readiness rates. The formula divides the number of college ready students (those who met the ACT benchmark) by the number of first-time ninth graders three years earlier. Students with missing ACT scores are defined as “not college ready” for the purpose of this calculation. In most cases, students were missing ACT scores because they dropped out of high school before taking the junior year exam; however, a small percentage of students were missing ACT scores for unexplained reasons.


SDP has taken steps to ensure data and analyses in this report cannot be used to identify individual student records. Results are suppressed for any  school or student subgroup with fewer than 20 students. Percentages close to zero and 100 are bottom- and top-coded to 1% and 99% for college enrollment outcomes, and to 5% and 95% for other outcomes. Between these ranges, results are suppressed for outcomes with fewer than three students.