Kentucky Hitting a Home Run with High School Feedback Reports that Reduce Remediation and Increase College Enrollment
Kentucky, known for its vast grasslands and famed horseraces, is also home to a state with a thriving college-going culture.
Recent trends suggest incremental increases in college enrollment and decreases in college remediation. The state believes that part of this progress can be attributed to the development of succinct, easy-to-read, and easy-to-interpret high school feedback reports. These reports allow school leaders, parents, school boards, and other key education stakeholders to understand how well their high schools’ students perform in college and take actions to ensure that they succeed in postsecondary education.
Kentucky’s High School Feedback
Kentucky’s High School Feedback reports allow users to compare college-going rates and high school performance indicators with other schools at the district and state-levels. These reports include not only data on enrollments, but also additional information that are crucial to postsecondary success, such as remediation rates and average GPA.
In 2009 the Kentucky legislature sought to provide this more robust picture of college success by requiring the state to improve enrollments while decreasing remediation. With this information, policymakers, administrators, and teachers are better able to identify areas where a particular school struggles to adequately prepare its students for postsecondary education and align its curriculum to address problematic areas. These data are not collected from a survey or self-reported by the student. They are provided by matching actual student-level electronic records from the Kentucky Department of Education with official enrollment records from the Council on Postsecondary Education for students attending public two- and four-year institutions and independent colleges and universities.
“These reports represent the most complete picture of college-going information from Kentucky’s public high schools that we have ever had access to. With more than 60 percent of our graduates going to college, this is a good indication that more of our graduates are seeking postsecondary credentials than ever before,” said Charles McGrew, executive director of the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics.
State Leadership Role in Producing High School Feedback Reports
In 2009 Kentucky created the Kentucky P–20 Data Collaborative, a joint effort from the Kentucky Department of Education, Council on Postsecondary Education, Education Professional Standards Board, the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet, and the Kentucky Higher Education Assistance Authority. Through a series of grants, the agencies built a data warehouse of information from prekindergarten through college and beyond, making it possible to link student, teacher, postsecondary, and certification data so that informed decisions about important strategies could be formulated. To evaluate the effectiveness of the state’s high school feedback reports, the P–20 Data Collaborative solicited feedback from stakeholders and practitioners. Through this feedback, the state learned that educators were not using the reports. In response, the state turned their attention to users’ needs in an effort to make the reports more actionable, raise awareness, and communicate that the reports were intended to support continuous improvement.
Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed an executive order, enacted into law in 2013, creating the Kentucky Center for Education and Workforce Statistics (KCEWS). This builds on and expands the great work of the P–20 Data Collaborative by creating a state-funded office to further examine how students are prepared for college and by linking education with workforce and other outcomes.
The Lasting Impact of High School Feedback
The P–20 Data Collaborative worked with educators to assess the utility and design of high school feedback reports. This effort led to the development of timely and actionable reports that led to a shift in how well college-bound students performed with increased high school graduation and first-time postsecondary enrollment rates.
Figure 1: Graduation Rate Data 2011 State Trends, Kentucky Department of Education, 2012.
Figure 2: First Time Undergraduate Student Enrollment by Institution, Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education, 2012.
Kentucky’s production of a transparent, actionable, and timely high school feedback report is a monumental step in understanding how individual high schools in Kentucky are preparing students for success at the postsecondary level and are leading to better preparation of students entering college for the first time. The information contained in these high school feedback reports “is vital to improving alignment between Kentucky’s high schools and postsecondary institutions and to the overall success of our students,” said McGrew. “The reports are publicly available so parents, educators, school board members, officials, and others can see how their local schools and districts compare across the state.” Kentucky has recently started to produce early childhood feedback reports as well as first-year college success reports. Both of these new types of reports will provide an even richer picture of the college-going culture within the state.