Education is the foundation on which a greater Louisville will be built and is the anchor of GLP’s Deep Drivers. Our data suggest that by raising Louisville’s persistently low levels of educational attainment–growing the bachelor’s degree attainment rate to 40% and associate degree attainment to 10% by 2020–our city will be positioned to thrive in a 21st-century economy. We know that in order to achieve these goals we must also reduce our high school dropout rate, improve our college readiness, and ensure access to high-quality early childhood education.
Early childhood education captures the quality of and access to educational investment for kids under 6 years old. Research suggests addressing childhood education is a critical factor in improving the educational attainment and socioeconomic transition of low-income communities. Measuring early childhood education access gives insight into the factors impacting children and adults in poverty, allowing a multiperspective approach to understanding the obstacles facing low income families. The metric associated with early childhood education is “kindergarten readiness,” in alignment with the Ready for K Alliance. Louisville has a target goal of 77% of children kindergarten ready by 2020.
The successful experience of and access to quality education from kindergarten to senior year is crucial for children to gain a firm foundation of fundamentally required skills a successful college career—and for many—for a productive adult life. A singularly important factor affecting success is the experience of poverty during the K-12 education period, which can affect a student’s ability to focus, their health, and the the quality of education received. The metric associated with K-12 success is “transition readiness,” in alignment with the efforts of 55,000 Degrees. Louisville has a target goal of 100% transition readiness among graduating students.
Postsecondary education is a singular factor in determining the lifetime earning potential of the average American. The difference in potential earnings is staggering, making it a critical variable in combatting multidimensional poverty. Estimating not only educational attainment but also employment success is crucial in understanding the impact of a successful K-12 educational system. The metric for postsecondary education is percent of working age adults with a bachelor’s degree. Louisville has a target goal of 40% of working age adults obtaining a bachelor’s degree or higher. Learn more about this metric.
For each indicator, Greater Louisville Project assigns cities into one of three groups (high-performing, middle-of-the-pack, and low-performing) based on how they compare to other cities. The assignment is based on how cities naturally cluster on that indicator. Sometimes, the differences between cities are very small, and the difference between a city ranked 5th and 6th could simply be a matter of the sampling error that arises from using survey data. Thus, rather than always make a division that declares the top 5 to be the top tier, we use a natural breaks algorithm to look for a cluster of cities that is outperforming the rest, a cluster that is about average, and a cluster that is lagging. This clustering gives us a better indication of where Louisville is thriving and where Louisville has room to learn from cities that are doing better.
Z-scores (or standardization) is a way to combine data with different units of measurement into a single index. The z-score is a measure of how far away a city (or census tract, etc.) is from the average city. In order to be comparable across different units of measurement, the z-score is the distance from the mean measured in standard deviations (e.g. if Louisville has a z-score of 1 it means Louisville is 1 standard deviation above the mean of its peer cities).
Data from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's County Health Rankings use z-scores and all z-scores are relative to the mean of Louisville's peer cities. (On the County Health Rankings site z-scores are relative to all the counties in each state - thus z-scores reported by GLP will be different, because we are using a different reference group). The Greater Louisville Project also uses z-scores in our multidimensional poverty index, which compares each census tract to the mean of all census tracts in Louisville.