Kids Count focuses on education

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By Jesse Osbourne



The Kids Count 2012 County Data Book was released on Dec. 28 and focuses on education in the state. The 2011 data focused on health and poverty.  

Overall, Washington County showed improvement or no change in nine of 13 applicable categories, notably in dollars spent per pupil in public schools.
According to the book, “spending per pupil is the total amount of current expenses per pupil, excluding facility expenditures, debt service, or fund transfers.”
That number increased from $7,508 in school year 2005-2006 to $9,457 in school year 2010-11, a 26-percent gain. The amount Washington County spent per pupil in 2010-11 is higher than the state average of $9,246 during the same time period.
“All students need to attend schools with sufficient resources to ensure a fair opportunity to succeed academically,” according to the Kids Count book. “Yet spending varies among schools, districts, and states, impacting children’s opportunities for learning.”
While more money per pupil is being spent in Washington County, the state is lagging behind nationally.
“Kentucky’s comparable spending in (school year) 2009-2010 was $8,948 per student (as opposed to the national average of $10,615), ranking 38th of all states and the District of Columbia for elementary-secondary per-pupil expenditures,” according to the book. “While Kentucky’s per-pupil expenditures are on the rise, they still lag behind six of the seven surrounding states and the national average.”

Graduation rate
Washington County also showed great improvement in the percent of high school students graduating on time.
The rate, called the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate, “uses a graduating class’s average student enrollment during their freshman and sophomore years as the denominator in the calculation, assuming that membership over the four years of high school is consistent,” according to the book.
In school year 2007-08, 71.1 percent of student graduated on time at Washington County High School. In school year 2010-11, 86.9 percent of students at the high school graduated on time. That equates to a 22 percent gain.
Washington County dwarfs the state average of 77.8 percent and is the the third highest among school districts in adjoining counties.
Burgin is listed as having a 100 percent graduation rate, while Boyle County has a 92.1 percent rate.
Danville, at 75.9 percent, had the lowest graduation rate among school districts in adjoining counties.

Births to mothers with no high school diploma
The number of babies born to mothers with no high school degree is dropping in the state and in Washington County.
From 2004 to 2006, 15.4 percent of all births in Washington County were to mothers with no high school diploma.
From 2007-09, that number dropped to 13.8 percent.
The state average dropped from 22 percent to 20.6 during the same time frame.
According to the book, “the educational attainment of the mother can impact not only birth outcomes but also later childhood outcomes. Higher maternal education has been linked to improved birth weight and lower infant mortality. Parental educational attainment is also associated with a child’s school readiness skills, academic achievement, and positive health outcomes.”

Graduating college within six years
The percent of students from Washington County that entered college as a freshman and graduated from a four-year college within six years also increased.
The six-year college graduation rate also increased in Washington County.
“The six-year college graduation rate is the percent of entering college freshmen who graduate from a four-year college within six years,” according to the book.
The rate rose from 61 percent in 2006 to 65 percent in 2010.
The percentage also dwarfs the rates of school districts in adjoining counties and the state average.
Nelson County has the second highest rate, at 55 percent. The lowest rate of adjoining counties was Boyle’s at 43.2 percent. The state average is 48.7 percent.
“Graduating from college is an increasingly important milestone that benefits both the graduate and the greater public,” according to the book. “College graduates enjoy a higher likelihood of employment, higher personal income, better health, and improved quality of life. Federal, state, and local governments gain increased tax revenues from college graduates and spend less on work support programs for them.”
While Washington County students entering college had a higher six-year college graduation rate, they entered college with a higher percentage of academic needs (under prepared in one or more subjects after graduating from high school within previous two years) and a lower percentage of college / career readiness (meeting standards of preparedness for college or career).
Washington County was below state average in both categories.

Highly-qualified teachers
The percent of courses taught by highly-qualified teachers in Washington County increased from 96 percent in school year 2004-2005 to 100 percent in 2009-10.
“The Kentucky Department of Education has outlined characteristics of high-quality teachers, which include: fostering a safe learning climate, assessing learning with students and reflecting on that insight, emphasizing instructional rigor and student empowerment, relating learning experiences to students in a meaningful way, and exhibiting superior knowledge of content,” according to the book.
Washington County’s rate surpasses the state average and ties with several school district’s in adjoining counties.

Chronic absenteeism
The percent of students that missed 10 percent or more school days in the school year increased in Washington County from school year 2008-2009 to school year 2010-11.
The rate climbed from 10.9 in 08-09 to 12.5 in 10-11, still below state average and in the middle of the pack among school districts in adjoining counties.

Free or reduced-price meals
The percent of students attending public schools eligible for free or reduced-price meals increased in Washington County from school year 09-10 to 11-12.
Washington County rose from 60 percent to 62 percent during that time period. The state average is 58 percent and only two other school districts (Danville, Bardstown) in adjoining counties had higher numbers of eligible students.
“Students who eat breakfast show improved math and reading scores, better memory,” according to the book. “They also attend school more regularly and experience fewer behavioral problems.”

Student achievement
Washington County students did not fare well at scoring proficient or distinguished in reading and math among the state average and school districts in adjoining counties.
Scores are from the Kentucky Performance Rating for Education Progress (KPREP) tests in elementary or middle school and end-of-course exams for high school students during school year 2011-12
“All children need a high-quality education and the opportunity to perform at their highest academic level,” according to the book. “Assessing student knowledge in core academic subjects provides a measure of student learning and preparedness for the transition to a career or postsecondary education.”
Washington County students fell below state average for the percentage of students scoring proficient or distinguished in reading and math in elementary, middle and high school.
Among nine total school districts in Washington, Marion, Nelson, Boyle, Anderson and Mercer counties, scores from Washington County were never higher than fifth in any category (see chart).
Out of the nine districts, Washington County ranked last in the percentage of proficient or distinguished scorers in reading at the high school level with 39.6 percent. The state average is 52.2.
Burgin ranked the highest out of the nine districts, with 65 percent of students scoring proficient or distinguished in reading at the high school level.
Washington County students fell well below the state average of 40 percent in math at the high school level. Only 7.7 percent of students in the county scored proficient or distinguished at that level. Nelson County ranked lower at 6.3 percent. Danville ranked the highest among school districts in adjoining counties, with 46.8 percent scoring proficient or distinguished.
The data was still embargoed at press deadline, but was available for publication prior to the newspaper hitting the newsstand. Therefore, a link to the entire Kids Count 2012 County Data Book was unavailable at press time.