Real numbers, real people
Kentucky School Advocate
By Mike Armstrong
KSBA Executive Director
"Our scientific age demands that we provide definitions, measurements, and statistics in order to be taken seriously. Yet most of the important things in life cannot be precisely defined or measured. Can we define or measure love, beauty, friendship, or decency, for example?"
– Dennis Prager, radio talk show host
As Kentucky welcomes two major players to the state’s public education arena (our 62nd governor and sixth commissioner of education), I thought it might be a good time to review some statistics and data relevant to public education and life in general in the Commonwealth.
There are 173 public school districts in Kentucky, each governed by a locally elected school board. In all, there are 869 local school board seats, 55 percent held by men and 45 percent held by women. The Kentucky Association of School Superintendents reports 140 male and 33 female superintendents.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the July 1, 2014, estimated population for Kentucky was 4,413,457, almost evenly divided between males and females percentage-wise. Our median household income (in 2013 dollars) was $43,036 vs. $53,046 for the U.S. When compared with our contiguous neighboring states (Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia), only West Virginia had a lower median household income. Not surprisingly, then, Kentucky led our contiguous states in percentage of people living in poverty, at 19.1 percent. The national percentage of persons living in poverty was 14.8 percent.
In addition, the Census Bureau reported 22.9 percent of Kentucky’s estimated 2014 population is under 18 years of age – or 1,010,681 children and youth.
More important state data points:
• The Kentucky Department of Education’s 2014-15 School Report Card records 655,581 public school students. In its Education Facts (2011-12 school year, the most recent posted on its website), the department reports 1,233 public school buildings, in which 43,767 public school teachers work. It also records 41,794 classified staff. School buses numbered 10,058, with 11,252 licensed school bus drivers.
• KDE reported in its Oct. 1, 2015, "Unbridled Learning: College/Career-Readiness for All" 2014-2015 results that our four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate is 87.9 percent. Likewise, the percentage of 2015 graduates qualifying as college and/or career-ready is now 66.8 percent compared with only 47.2 percent in 2012.
• AARP’s Grandfacts Kentucky fact sheet reported "107,730 Kentucky children under age 18 live in homes where the householders are grandparents or other relatives (10.6 percent of the children in the Commonwealth.)" Specifically, 86,788 live with grandparents who are the householders and 20,942 live with other relatives who are the householders.
• The Kids Count Data Center, associated with The Annie E. Casey Foundation, reported Kentucky’s kindergarten readiness level at 50 percent "of all screened incoming kindergarteners who meet readiness to learn standards based on adaptive, cognitive, motor, communication, and social-emotional skills." The report was based on the results of Kentucky’s most recent Brigance Kindergarten Screen.
I’ve shared a variety of data and statistics – some of it specific to public education, some of it not. Regardless of the nature of the information, it is always incumbent on us to remember the data is reflective of real people, be they students, adults, professionals, moms and dads, or grandparents. That makes the data real and significant.
The data tells stories – some good and some not so good. My hope is that our two new leaders will use this data in a constructive and productive way, in cooperation and collaboration with us stakeholders so as to benefit each and every citizen of the Commonwealth. We are all in this together!