Auditor Of Public Accounts
Kentucky Dropout Rates Underreported: Audit Includes Recommendations for Improvement

Press Release Date:  Thursday, October 12, 2006  
Contact Information:  Jeff Derouen
Phone: (502) 573-0050
Fax: (502) 573-0067
Pager: (888) 222-5670

State Auditor Crit Luallen today released an audit of Kentucky’s dropout rate.  The performance audit was conducted to determine whether Kentucky’s dropout rate is valid and accurate.  The audit discovered that districts couldn’t accurately calculate the dropout rate using the current student information system.

The review determined that Kentucky’s dropout number for the 2004 – 2005 school year was underreported by at least 1,979 students - 30% of the number of dropouts reported.  For that school year, the dropout rate for grades 9 – 12 was reported as 3.47%.  However, based on the number of students coded as dropouts within the student information system the dropout rate should have been approximately 4.7%.   

Students who leave school at the end of one school year, yet who do not return at the beginning of the next school year, known as summer dropouts, are not coded in the student information. Inconsistencies in how individual school districts report these students may lead to an even higher dropout rate.

Because Kentucky’s formula for calculating the graduation rate is currently dependent upon the dropout numbers reported by the districts, the graduation rate has been overstated.  The audit also illustrates that dropout rates cannot be compared nationally.  Dropout definitions and manner of calculations are not consistent among the states.

“These are not just numbers, they represent children who are Kentucky’s future. Education is the single most important issue facing Kentucky.  The link between a vibrant economy and educational attainment is clear.  In order for us to measure our progress and to understand where we need to spend our limited resources we must have accurate data; it is critical that we are able to track and monitor Kentucky’s students.  Our goal must be to graduate more students prepared to continue their education.” State Auditor Crit Luallen said.

The Auditor’s Office recommends that the student information system should be enhanced to properly code and track Kentucky’s students.  The system must be able to track dropouts by name or identification number.  It should also be able to record summer dropouts and allow information to be tracked over multiple school years.

Additionally, the Auditor’s Office recommends that Kentucky should streamline dropout definitions and the process for collecting data.  “We recommend that Kentucky adopt a uniform dropout calculation method currently under development by the National Governors’ Association.  Once a working student tracking system is implemented the Kentucky Department of Education should train school districts to use the system properly.” Luallen said.

“Lack of educational attainment is the single biggest barrier to a stronger economic future for Kentucky. On an individual level the costs are quantifiable. The national Alliance for Excellent Education estimates that the more than 18,000 students who did not graduate from Kentucky’s high schools in 2004 will cost the state more than $4.8 billion over their lifetimes in lost wages, taxes, and productivity.  That does not even take into account the cost associated with their increased use of the states Medicaid and prison system.  If we are going to solve Kentucky’s long-term problems we must produce an accurate method to track all of our students so we can find individual solutions to keep them in school.” Luallen added.

NOTE: Ms. Luallen and Auditor’s Staff are available for interviews by contacting Jeff Derouen at 502-573-0050.