While everyone was having fun with my last post (which I will admit was a bit of April Fool’s fun on my part, and the attention was a little embarrassing considering the uber-serious tone of most of my writing), a few people were also finding my post, John White’s Spinning Wheel of ACT Scores: More Students Are Qualified to Go to College Except When They Actually Try to Go, where I expose how many of our high school graduates are no longer qualified to attend our state’s universities as a result of the GRAD Act-linked four-year admission criteria which were (almost) fully implemented last year.
Well, maybe it was coincidence, or maybe Mr. White and Friends found my blog, but don’tcha know, yesterday we got treated to this piece of good news from the data
spinners mavens at the Louisiana Department of Education aka Louisiana Believes (What We Tell Ya):
Well, since that paints a little rosier picture than the one I’ve been portraying here, I have to fact-check this.
So the first thing I do is look for the report this is based on. I didn’t see it last night, but I found it this morning… seems they’ve reoorganized a few things and now the college-going reports are on a new page: Louisiana College Enrollment Reports
Well, cool! I actually have need for these data in my Day Job (you know, the one where I try to keep my institution open) so I’m pretty excited about this. In conjunction with other data in my toolbox this helps me identify schools statewide and in my service area that are being underrecruited to four-year universities in relation to their ACT scores and core completion rates. Unfortunately, this is the last year that these reports will probably be available (or at least usable) due to the Schroder legislation of last year, but that’s a whole other topic for another day.
But, since this is John White’s DoE we are talking about here, we have to fact-check everything.
First, let’s look at the primary assertion in the article. College-going rates are up 6% among public school students over last year, and it’s all because Common Core is great and all, and because more students are taking the ACT since it’s mandatory.
We know one part of that statement is true. The ACT became mandatory for 11th graders enrolled in public schools two years ago. And, as I’ve shown here, I have already confirmed that more Louisiana students are taking the ACT. Since more students are taking the ACT, more students are getting the magic! 18 ACT composite that John White claims qualifies students for college, even though in our state it really doesn’t.
As for Common Core–since that was only fully implemented (sort of, since we don’t have an agreement with Pearson’s) this year, the students graduating from high school last year were mostly unaffected by Common Core. Most did complete the Regents’/TOPS Core 4 college prep curriculum, and while the two bear some relationship going back to the inception of Common Core, they aren’t the same thing.
So now we are fact-checking this: College-going rates are up 6% among public school high school graduates last year.
Well, according to the data that are available on the College Enrollment Reports page, this is true. In the fall of 2014, 22,972 of Louisiana’s high school graduates went to postsecondary institutions, compared to 21,744 in fall 2013. This is an increase of 5.6%, which rounded up is 6%.
But we have to look at a couple other things to see if this is a meaningful, statistically significant increase.
First, what was the percentage increase in college-going graduates compared to the total number of graduates? While it may seem that all I do is criticize, I do give credit where credit is due… and one thing our state is improving significantly in is that we are graduating more students both overall and with Core 4.
So for this increase to be significant, it would result in a greater percentage of students going to college compared to the overall number of graduates.
In 13-14, 57.7% of high school graduates enrolled in postsecondary institutions in the fall after graduation.
In 14-15, this percentage rose to 59.2%, or an increase of 1.5%. It’s not 6%, but that is an increase. That’s actually the figure that means something.
The other things we need to look at are:
- is the college-going rate keeping up with the increase in the number of total graduates and the number and percentage of graduates completing the college-prep Core 4?
- where are these students going? Are more going to two versus four years? Are they going to our public colleges and universities or are they going elsewhere? Are they going to in-state privates or out of state?
In order to look at (1), I need to compare what John White’s DoE has just posted against the corresponding data that the Board of Regents releases to those of us in the enrollment management and admissions/recruiting community every year… our STS (State Transcript System) Core 4 reports. These reports show, by parish, “sponsor” (aka school district or operator), and high school how many students graduated overall and with Core 4. My findings so far, based on these Core 4 reports and the public enrollment reports available through Regents is that while more students are graduating, and graduating with Core, this isn’t translating to more students going to college. This is a different finding entirely than what White is asserting, so I definitely have to fact check this. If I’m wrong, then I’m happy to revise my findings.
Herein lies my first problem. In order to do this, I need to replicate White’s data. Which I should be able to do, because if these all come from STS, the number of graduates reported on the Board of Regents side should match what’s on the DoE side. It’s not easy, because our Core 4 reports list ALL graduates, not just publics. But it’s not THAT difficult because since Regents provides it in a handy pivot report, all I have to do is filter for public sponsors by LDE sponsor code. For those trying this at home, that means looking for any sponsor code beginning with zero (traditional parish school districts by parish code), 3 (publicly funded charters), A (alternative schools) and 3A (charter alternative schools). Other LDE sponsor codes are for private and parochial schools, so they don’t count.
So, according to yesterday’s 2014 college going report, 38,785 students graduated from Louisiana’s public schools last year. But according to the Regents’ STS Core 4 report, there are 38,326 public school graduates. Hmm, that’s a difference of 459 students, or a little over 1%. Not a huge number, but they should match. There’s even more of a problem with last year’s data – LDoE reported 37,655, where I only see 36,424 public grads in the Regents’ report, for a difference of 1231 students or a 3.3% difference.
And everyone knows that if you can’t replicate data, they aren’t reliable. And one of the things I have asserted over and over again is that if you have access to the same data that I have… and all are from external sources that can be replicated… you will come up with the same things that I do.
So this indicates that either (1) the Board of Regents data are wrong (2) the LDoE data are wrong or (3) I’m not finding all the public grads in the Regents’ reports, meaning that I’m wrong.
I’m actually willing to concede (3) if it’s true since I’m an honest researcher.
On the other hand, John White has been caught lying on occasion.
One thing that I didn’t consider… Does LDoE count publicly funded voucher students in private schools public grads, or private?
OK, well now that I’m really sure I’m not going to be able to verify LDoE’s latest data spew, let’s go on to one more thing that we can (sort of) verify, at least if said data spew has any validity whatsoever.
Where did students go?
We do know that first time freshman enrollment at public institutions was almost flat compared to last year (there was a 54 student increase, or .01%), with a slight decrease in four-year enrollment and a marked decrease in regional university enrollment, especially among the three public HBCUs. This can be verified against official Board of Regents data.
So this means that if 1228 more Louisiana high school graduates went to college last year, and only 54 more went to our public colleges and universities, that means that 1174 students, or 96% of the increased number of college-going high school grads went SOMEWHERE ELSE BESIDES LOUISIANA’S PUBLIC COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES!
So where’d they go? Southern Miss? Jackson State? Dillard University? University of Phoenix? Blue Cliff in Metairie? (All these schools come up in the IPEDS radar, BTW.)
Well, the LDoE doesn’t drill down that far for our benefit, although since they are basing this off of National Student Clearinghouse data, they sure know.
But we can see where students are going to out of state schools. This is important to look at since John White also asserted that more minority and low-income students are going to colleges versus last year. But since they aren’t going to our state’s HBCUs and regionals, heck, they aren’t going to our state’s colleges period, some of them are going out of state.
The state average is currently 92% in state. Here are some of the schools with the highest proportion of students going out of state:
- Renew Accelerated West Bank: 33% in state
- Kilbourne High School: 40% in state
- Miller-McCoy: 54% in state (last year it was 72% in state)
- Pickering High School: 62% in state
- Centerville High School: 67% in state
- Mt. Hermon High School: 71% in state
- Vidalia High School: 73% in state
- Morehouse Parish (classified as a black high poverty parish): 76% in state
Many of the RSD-NO schools are up there on the list–most in the 80% in-state range–but looking at these new data indicates that students in poor, rural areas are also increasingly forced to go to school out of state. So, yeah, John White, more minority and poor kids ARE going to college. OUT OF STATE!
No wonder why many of our regionals and HBCUs are shrinking.
I say it again… the state minimum admission criteria are doing more to keep students OUT of college than IN college.
Once I find out how to deal with the disparity in the number of graduates according to John White vs. the Board of Regents, I’ll be back with more–especially with my gap analysis showing how many students are NOT going ANYWHERE.
But these new data further support my assertion that our state’s colleges and universities should be growing, but instead out of state schools are here having a field day with the kids who are no longer able to go to our public universities. And that’s not even factoring in the effect of tuition increases. Once TOPS is decoupled from tuition, and we go to what is likely to be an almost completely student-funded system of higher education, watch the exodus of our students out of state speed up exponentially.