New education data on the KIDS COUNT Data Center reveals that the number of Kentucky students eligible for free or reduced-price meals at school has steadily risen throughout the recent economic recession. In school year 2007-2008, there were 355,992 students eligible, and in school year 2010-2011, that number rose to 395,486. The percent of eligible students remained greater than 50 percent throughout those years, and school year 2010-2011 was marked by the largest percentage in over a decade at 57 percent. This increase reflects the persistent struggles Kentucky families have faced in earning enough income to meet their basic needs.

The new education data also reveals that corporal punishment is being used less frequently in Kentucky schools as a form discipline. The number of incidents dropped from 3,460 in school year 2005-2006 to 1,581 in school year 2009-2010. However, the practice was still used by 39 school districts. Kentucky’s current law leaves the decision on whether or not to permit corporal punishment against students up to individual school boards. While this drop in incidents is encouraging, there are still troubling realities within the latest number, including the fact that students with disabilities are significantly over-represented.

Lastly, the new education data includes the Kentucky Department of Education’s (KDE) recently released method of calculating district high school graduation rates. The new calculation, referred to as the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR), is a transitional step towards adopting the No Child Left Behind method, which states must start using for the graduating class of school year 2012-2013. This method provides a better measure of on-time graduations by including district enrollment data in the calculation. And, as you can see in the graph below, the new data reveal fewer on-time high school graduations in Kentucky than the previous method portrayed. Under the previous method, the school year 2008-2009 graduation rate was 83.9 percent, and the new rate reveals a lower percentage of 78.0 percent.

You can access the most up-to-date and historical data for more education indicators, including: school enrollment, average daily attendance, school district spending and locally generated revenue per pupil, math and reading proficiency levels, and successful transitions after high school.

The KIDS COUNT Data Center provides information across states and for Kentucky counties and school districts on many measures of child well-being, including: economic well-being, education, health, and safety. Users can easily rank, map, graph trends over time, and add customized information to their own websites. Users can also view and share data quickly and easily anytime and anywhere with the enhanced mobile site for smart phones.

Looking for more information? Research and recommendations for improving outcomes for the Kentucky KIDS COUNT indicators can be found in the annual Kentucky KIDS COUNT County Data Books here.