Updated Postsecondary Progress Report shows improvement (Part 2 of 3)

Updated Postsecondary Progress Report shows improvement (Part 2 of 3)

A unique Kansas measure designed to track  how each Kansas “graduating class” is successfully pursuing higher education shows an increase over the past four years. Although that is good news, the report also shows the state must do more to prepare it citizens for success after high school.

The Postsecondary Progress Report (PPR) is designed to measure progress of two of the Kansas State Board of Education’s Kansans Can goals: improving high school graduation and postsecondary attendance and completion. Data show that more and more Kansas jobs in the future will require postsecondary education, and that those jobs are more likely to pay wages providing economic security. In fact, projections indicate over 90 percent of jobs will require a high school diploma and over 75 percent will require some credential beyond a diploma.

The PPR is somewhat complicated. This article explains how the report works, what information it provides and how it compares to other sources of information about education attainment in Kansas.


It is important to note that the 2016 data does not include the impact of additional school funding provided by the Kansas Legislature for the 2017-18 school year (last year) and beyond.

What does the Postsecondary Progress Report measure?

The progress report has four components.

First, it reports the high school graduation rate using the “adjusted cohort” method – essentially, the percent of high school freshmen who graduate four years later, adjusted for transfers in and out. Statewide, this rate rose from 85.2 to 86.1 percent from 2012 to 2016.

Second, the “success rate” is based on the percent of high school graduates who, within two years of school graduation, either complete an industry-recognized certificate, complete a postsecondary academic degree, or have been enrolled in a postsecondary institution for both the first and second year after graduation. Statewide, this number increased from 52.2 to 56.7 percent.

The data is collected by the National Student Clearinghouse (NSC), which allows each student in a postsecondary program to be tied back to the specific high school he or she graduated from.

According to KSDE, the NSC data comes from more than 3,300 collegiate institutions that enroll more than 93 percent of all U.S. higher education students – but that means some students in postsecondary programs are not counted. Kansas has been working to get all public and private universities, community and technical colleges to share the data, so some of the increase may be more institutions reporting.

Third, the “effective rate” is the graduation rate multiplied by the success rate. The result is the percentage of the freshman
class that has either completed a credential or has been enrolled in a postsecondary program for two years after graduating high school. Statewide, the number rose from 44.5 to 48.9 percent over the four years from 2012 to 2016.

Those numbers are moving up, but remain far short of the “targets” of a 95 percent graduation rate and a 70-75 percent effective rate.

The KSDE report provides these three rates, plus a four-year average, for the state and each school district or accredited private school system.

Fourth, each district or system is given a “predicted effective rate.” This is a range where the district’s effective rate is expected to be based on a several “risk factors” that have a strong correlation with lower student performance and are largely outside the control of the district. Comparing the district’s actual effective rate with the predicted effective shows whether the district is performing higher, lower or about the same as districts whose students face similar risks. This number, of course varies from district to district.

The significant risk factors are students in poverty, measured by free or reduced lunch eligibility; mobility, measured by number of moves among schools; and chronic absentees, defined as missing more than 10 percent of the school year. The higher these numbers, the lower the district’s effective rate is expected to be.

Here is a link to the KSDE website for the Postsecondary Progress Report, which includes a drop-down menu for reports on all public school districts and accredited private schools, and links to additional information on the report.

What is not counted in the “effective rate?”

The effective rate does not count students who did not graduate high school within four years, even if they complete high school later. Students who complete a GED are also not counted.

Some students who are actually in postsecondary education programs will not be counted. These include students who “opt out” of sharing records under the Family Educational Rights and Privacy ACT (FERPA), as well as those who cannot be matched due to data discrepancies. In addition, KSDE reports approximately 3 percent of students nationally are enrolled in a postsecondary institution that does not report to NSC.

Students who earn certificates or dual college credit in high school are excluded because NSC data represents only student postsecondary enrollment after high school graduation. As a result, a student who completes a technical certificate while still in high school doesn’t count, but a student who completes the same certificate the first year after high school will be counted.

Students who enlist in the military are not counted because the services do not share this information.

The effective rate does not count students who enter the workforce after high school graduation, including those who receive a credential not offered by a postsecondary institution, such as on-the-job training. It also does not include nondegree seeking college students, because those students are not pursuing a postsecondary credential.

Finally, the effective rate does not count students who do not immediately enroll in a postsecondary program or stop their enrollment during the first two years after high school, even if they return to school and complete a program later.

How does this data differ from other sources?

The Postsecondary Progress Report is unique in that it tracks specific graduates of each school district through the first two years after graduation, regardless of whether they attend college in Kansas or out of state (as long as the postsecondary institution reports data to the NSC.) It reports data for each year’s graduating class.

A different measure of postsecondary progress is provided by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey of educational attainment. This measure estimates for percent of the state population aged 18 to 24 who have completed high school; have “some college,” which means less than a four-year degree, including technical certificates and two-year degrees, even if then student who not completed the degree; or have completed a four-year bachelor’s degree or higher.

The key differences are that the census data reports high school graduates, college participation and bachelor’s degree completion for all state residents in that age group, even if they took more than four years to graduate or were not enrolled in the first two years after their senior year. Because it surveys each state’s resident population, it does not indicate whether they graduated from high school in the state or not. (In other words, Kansas high school graduate attending college in other states would be counted as a high school graduate attending college in that state, not Kansas.) The census data is based on estimates, not actual – if partially incomplete – counts of individual students.

By comparison, the PPR for 2016 shows an 86.1 percent four year-graduate rate that year, but the Census report shows that 87.5 percent of Kansas aged 18-24 had completed high school or earned a GED. The PPR shows that 48.9 percent of the class of 2016 had completed a technical certificate or academic degree or were enrolled in both 2017 or 2018, but Census report shows that 58.8 percent of Kansans aged 18-24 in 2016 had completed a technical certificate associates degree or earned any postsecondary credit, whether they had completed a program; and 10.3 percent had completed a bachelor’s degree.

Why are the Census numbers higher? They include students who take longer to graduate high school and those who earn a GED; they include students who earn certificates in high school; they include students with any postsecondary participation, even a single semester, whether or not they have completed a program by age 24; and it possible that more out-of-state students come to can to attend college than Kansas students who go to other states.

Finally, the Postsecondary Progress report is limited to Kansas. KSDE is not aware of any other state using NSC data to prepare a statewide report. The census data allows comparisons among states.