County shows strengths and weaknesses in latest Kids Count figures
by Ralph B. Davis
JEFFERSONTOWN — Kentucky Youth Advocates released its annual “Kids Count County Data Book” Friday, focusing this year on education statistics. And while the numbers show Floyd County has made significant improvements in some areas over the past decade, they show the county still has room for improvement in others.
This year’s report — the group’s 22nd annual release — focuses on a need to improve the state’s system of alternative education.
“Alternative education programs serve students who do not thrive in traditional classrooms and are at-risk of dropping out,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. “They play a critical role because they can provide an alternative path in which students can excel and become contributing members of society.”
“Like their peers in traditional schools, educators in alternative schools need stronger and richer professional learning opportunities that are customized to the students they serve,” said Leon Mooneyhan, CEO of the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative. “We are working to expand our regional network of alternative school administrators statewide in order to highlight best practices and raise the quality of alternative programs.”
For the first time, this year’s report took a look at the number of Kentucky students with disabilities enrolled in public schools. It found that 15 percent of students across the state report some type of disability that affects educational performance, with the most common condition being a speech or language impairment. That compares to a 19.8 percent rate of disabled students in Floyd County.
“It’s especially timely for us to focus attention on our population of students with disabilities, in light of reports that they are disproportionately at risk of being subject to the use of restraint and seclusion in schools — a practice that is not only ineffective, but potentially life threatening,” Brooks said. “The Kentucky Department of Education’s recent step to limit the use of restraint and seclusion in schools is a huge step forward and we encourage the legislature’s education committees to take the final step and approve the regulation changes.”
One key improvement for Floyd County shown in the report was the percentage of high school students graduating on time. During the 2007-08 school year, Floyd County trailed the state, 72.5 percent to 75 percent. In the 2010-11 school year, the county had leapfrogged the state with an 86.3 percent on-time graduation rate, compared to a 78 percent rate across the state.
The report noted that a high school diploma is a key indicator of future success, with graduates having higher incomes and better health, while being less likely to require public assistance.
“With the growing demand for a highly educated workforce, we need to make sure that there are rigorous educational opportunities for all students,” Brooks said. “For students who are struggling, high-quality alternative education programs and accelerated learning opportunities can provide the supports students need to get back on track and graduate on time.”
The report also noted that the education of mothers also plays a role not only on their children’s future educational achievement, but also on the health of their children at birth and later. In Floyd County, the number of children born to mothers without a high school diploma showed modest improvement falling from 30.6 percent in 2004-06, to 29.7 percent in 2007-09. But the county still trails far behind the rest of the state, which had a rate of 21 percent.
Floyd County also saw a 26 percent improvement in the percentage of students graduating college within six years, jumping from 27 percent in 2007-08 to 34 percent in 2010-11. Despite that gain, Floyd County students still trailed far behind their the state rate, which stood at 49 percent in 2010-11.
Floyd County also halved the gap with the state in the number of highly-qualified teachers, rising to 94 percent in 2009-10. That placed the county only 4 percentage points behind the statewide figure, compared to a difference of 8 points in 2004-05.
Copies of the “Kids County 2012 County Data Book” are available for download from the Kentucky Youth Advocates website, at www.kyyouth.org.
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