Kentucky's overall high school graduation rate for the 2009-10 school year was 76.68 percent as computed under a new formula, the state Department of Education said Tuesday.
While 2009-10 is the most recent year for which graduation figures are available, the state also released recalculated rates for 2007-08 and 2008-09 Tuesday using the new "averaged freshman graduation" formula.
Under that formula, Kentucky's overall graduation rate for 2007-08 was 74.99 percent, and it climbed to 75.11 percent in 2008-09, state education officials said.
Kentucky is switching to the averaged freshman formula as it transitions toward a new, federally mandated uniform national formula designed to put all states on the same page in computing graduation rates.
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State officials say Kentucky will use the averaged freshman formula until the 2013-14 school year, then switch to the new national formula. That system, which will allow each Kentucky student to be tracked all through high school, should provide a much more accurate graduation rate, educators say.
For now, the averaged freshman rate meets requirements of the federal No Child Left Behind Act, according to education department spokeswoman Lisa Gross.
But as education officials predicted last week, using the averaged freshman formula produced a noticeable drop from the Kentucky graduation rates that were reported in previous years under a mathematical method that has been discontinued.
For example, the state previously reported graduation rates of 83.91 percent for 2008-09 and 84.52 percent for 2007-08 under the old formula.
But Gross said Tuesday that the new, lower figures released Tuesday reflect the different formulas that were used and don't indicate an actual decline in the number of Kentucky students graduating from high school. Because different formulas were used, the two sets of rates can't be compared accurately, she said.
While figuring a statewide graduation rate might seem straightforward, education officials say it's tricky.
Students might enroll in 9th grade at one high school but switch schools several times before graduation. Some students drop out; others fall behind and need more than four years to graduate. Losing track of some along the way is easy, Gross said.
Kentucky's public high schools graduate about 40,000 students a year.
The transitional averaged freshman formula did allow the state to report for the first time on Tuesday individual graduation rates for males, females and ethnic groups across Kentucky.