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High SchoolDropout Rates/Graduation RatesSelected Research & Readings (Additional Resources)
 
  HIGH SCHOOL
 DROPOUT RATES/GRADUATION RATES
 
 What States Are Doing
 Selected Research & Readings
 


At-Risk (incl. Dropout Prevention)
No Child Left Behind--Adequate Yearly Progress

ECS High School Policy Center (HSPC)


Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 1972-2008--Compendium Report - This report presents estimates of both dropout and completion rates in 2008, provides data about trends in those rates over the last three and a half decades, and examines the characteristics of high school dropout and high school completers in 2008. Four rates are presented to provide a broad picture--the "event dropout rate" covers students who dropout between the start of school in two years; "status dropout rate" reports the percentage of individuals in a given age range who are not in school and have no diploma; "status completion rate" focuses on an overall age group; and the averaged freshman graduation rate each contributing unique information. (NCES 2010)...

Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2006 - This report builds upon a series of NCES reports on high school dropout and completion rates that began in 1988. It presents estimates of rates for 2006 and provides data about trends in dropout and completion rates over the last three decades, including characteristics of dropout and completers in these years. In October 2006, approximately 3.5 million 16- through 24-year-olds were not enrolled in high school and had not earned a high school diploma or alternative credential. (National Center for Education Statistics, September 2008)...

Unfulfilled Promise: The Dimensions and Characteristics of Philadelphia's Dropout Crisis, 2000-2005 - Using a unique set of data obtained from the Kids Integrated Data System, this report addresses three central sets of questions: (1) How many students in 6th-12th grades drop out of Philadelphia’s public schools in a single year and what are the key characteristics of these students? (2) What percentage of 9th graders graduates within a given set of years and what are the trends of these students and among various student groups? and (3) Which student characteristics can identify students as being at high risk of dropping out of high school? (Ruth Curran Neil and Robert Balfanz, Center for Social Organization of Schools, 2007)...

Estimating Graduation and Dropout Rates with Longitudinal Data: A Case Study in the Pittsburgh Public Schools - This report describes a method of calculating graduation and dropout rates that analyzes longitudinal, student-level data to provide improved estimates, and applies the method to estimate graduation and dropout rates for the Pittsburgh Public Schools districtwide and for each high school in the district. The estimates are based on a statistical model that estimates the relationship between the observed outcome for students who do not leave the district and their sex, race, age upon entry to 9th grade, and whether or not they changed schools within the district. The authors discuss the implications of changing various aspects of their methodology and provide recommendations for longitudinal data systems. (John Engberg and Brian Gill, RAND, July 2006)...

Dropout Rates in the United States: 2002 and 2003 - This report builds upon a series of National Center for Education Statistics reports on high school dropout and completion rates that began in 1988. It presents estimates of rates in 2002 and 2003, provides data about trends in dropout and completion rates over the last three decades and examines the characteristics of high school dropouts and high school completers in 2002 and 2003. Four rates are presented to provide a broad picture of high school dropouts and completers in the U.S., with each contributing unique information: the event dropout rate, the status dropout rate, the status completion rate and the averaged freshman graduation rate – an indicator new to this report series. (Jennifer Laird, Stephen Lew, Matthew DeBell and Chris Chapman, National Center for Education Statistics, June 2006)...

The Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate for Public High Schools from the Common Core of Data: School Years 2002-03 and 2003-04 - This report provides an estimate of the percentage of high school students who graduate on time by dividing the number of graduates with regular diplomas by the size of the incoming freshman class four years earlier, expressed as a percent. The data for this report were those reported by state education agencies. The Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate for 2002-03 was 73.9%, and was 75% in 2003-04 for the 48 states that provided data. According to the report, 2002-03 averaged freshman graduation rates ranged from 59.6% in the District of Columbia to 87% in New Jersey, and in 32 states and D.C., the rate improved from 2002-03 to 2003-04. The authors note the limitations to this data due to data quality, differences in state definitions of a high school diploma and a high school graduate, and indicate the several factors that cause the averaged freshman graduation rate to fall short of a true on-time graduation rate. (Marilyn Seastrom, Lee Hoffman, Chris Chapman and Robert Stillwell, National Center for Education Statistics, June 2006)...

Rethinking High School Graduation Rates and Trends - This report proposes that the oft-cited statistics of a national overall graduation rate of 66%, and a 50% graduation rate among minorities, are false. The actual graduation rate, say the authors, is about 75% for African American and Hispanic students and 82% overall for the nation. In addition, the study finds that high school completion has been increasing and dropouts declining for over 40 years, although such improvements have been modest over the last 10 years or so. (Lawrence Mishel and Joydeep Roy, Economic Policy Institute, April 2006) ...

No Child Left Behind Act: Education Could Do More to Help States Better Define Graduation Rates and Improve Knowledge about Intervention Strategies - The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to use graduation rates to measure how well students are educated. To assess the accuracy of states' rates, this report examines: (1) the graduation rate definitions states use and how the U.S. department of education (DOE) helped states meet legal requirements, (2) the factors that affect the accuracy of the states' rates and the U.S. DOE of education's role in ensuring accurate data and (3) interventions with the potential to increase graduation rates and how the U.S. DOE enhanced and disseminated knowledge of intervention research. (U.S. Government Accountability Office, September 2005)...

Counting High School Graduates when Graduates Count: Measuring Graduation Rates under the High Stakes of NCLB - Schools are required to report high school graduation rates under the accountability provisions of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). This report lays forth the underlying complexities of determining these rates, and weighs the advantages and limitations of four models for calculating graduation rates: the longitudinal graduation rate, the NCES high school completion rate, the Greene Method (Cohort Graduation Rates) and the cumulative promotion index (CPI). The authors do not "endorse or advise against using particular high school completion indicators." However, by using three of the different models to calculate estimated 1999-2000 graduation rates for states and the 100 largest school districts in America, they clearly show that the Greene and CPI methods yield varying graduation rates, while the researchers could not apply the NCES indicator in many states and districts due to a lack of calculable data. See this summary of the researchers' findings. (Christopher B. Swanson and Duncan Chaplin, The Urban Institute, February 2003)...

Graduation Counts: A Report of the National Governors Association Task Force on State High School Graduation Data - This report justifies the need for more accurate state dropout and graduation data, and identifies the principles that should guide the development of a better data collection/reporting system. The paper reports the task force’s recommendations and indicates the key factors – policy, leadership and political will and data system capacity – that may impact a state’s capacity to implement the suggested changes. Among the five recommendations for state policymakers: Immediately adopt, and begin taking steps to implement, the following formula for computing a four-year, adjusted cohort graduation rate: Graduation rate = [on-time graduates in year x] ¸ [(first-time entering 9th graders in year x – 4) + (transfers in) – transfers out)]. In addition, 47 governors and 12 national organizations signed onto a compact on state high school graduation data, committing to four specific areas of action. (National Governors Association, July 2005)...

High School Graduation Rates: Alternative Methods and Implications - This study reviews literature on and practices in reporting high school graduation rates, compares graduation rate estimates yielded from alternative methods and estimates discrepancies between alternative results at national, state and state ethnic group levels. Despite the graduation rate method used, results indicate that high school graduation rates in the United States have been declining in recent years and graduation rates for black and Hispanic students lag substantially behind those of white students. As to graduation rate method preferred, this study found no evidence that the conceptually more complex methods yield more accurate or valid graduation rate estimates than the simpler methods. (Jing Miao and Walt Haney, Education Policy Analysis Archives, October 2004)...

Public High School Dropouts and Completers From the Common Core of Data: School Year 2000-01 - Two of the most important indicators of the educational system’s success are the rates at which young people drop out of and complete high school each year. The Common Core of Data (CCD) survey system of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) annually collects information about public school dropouts and completers. This report, organized into eight tables, presents the number and percentage of students dropping out of and completing public school (among states that reported dropouts) for the 2000–01 school year. (Beth Aronstamm Young, National Center for Education Statistics, November 2003)...

Public High School Graduation and College-Readiness Rates: 1991-2002 - This study applies a respected method to calculate high school graduation rates, and contrasts these results with a calcuation of the percentage of students who leave high school “college ready”– meaning with the skills and knowledge needed to attend a four-year institution. According to the authors’ methodology, only one-third of entering public school 9th graders complete their education with a diploma and the prerequisites to apply to a four-year college, with this rate even lower among African American and Latino students. The authors likewise evaluate existing research on graduation rates, compare the numbers of college-ready youth with college enrollment rates, and evaluate the trends in high school graduation and college-readiness rates from 1991 to 2002. (Jay P. Greene and Marcus A. Winters, Manhattan Institute, February 2005)...

National Institute of Statistical Sciences/Education Statistics Services Institute Task Force on Graduation, Completion, and Dropout Indicators: Final Report - This is the final report of a federal Task Force on Graduation, Completion and Dropout (GCD) Indicators convened by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The task force was to review: (1) What GCD statistics are used, by whom and for what purposes? (2) Is current NCES methodology for calculation of GCD indicators adequate? And (3) Are there alternative GCD indicators that can serve both school system needs and broader community-level needs? What are the associated data collection issues? The report includes general findings as well as recommendations, including the task force’s preferred graduation indicator, which the task force urges the NCES and states to use in their reports and studies. The full report includes the methods for calculating federal and other graduation, completion and dropout indicators, as well as each state’s graduation rate indicators for purposes of NCLB. (National Center for Education Statistics, 2005)...

One-Third of a Nation: Rising Dropout Rates and Declining Opportunities - The author examines the varying reports of high school graduation/completion rates in the 50 states and the change in completion rates from 1990 to 2000. The report also considers the factors – including socioeconomic characteristics, two-parent families and not changing schools – that appear to play a role in a student’s choice to finish high school, and the actual and predicted high school completion rates based on these factors. The author likewise provides profiles of dropout prevention and second-chance programs, points to the dearth of guidance counselors in schools where they’re needed most and analyzes the employment status and earning power of dropouts, both historically and today. According to the report, the high school completion rate dropped from 1990 to 2000 in all but seven states, and declined by eight or more percentage points in 10 states. (Paul E. Barton, Educational Testing Service, 2005)...

High School Graduation, Completion, and Dropout (GCD) Indicators: A Primer and Catalog - This study describes in simple terms the variables that can affect the accuracy of high school graduation, completion and dropout (GCD) indicators. The study also briefly defines various federal GCD rate indicators, “generic” dropout rate indicators, and the graduation rate indicators used by each state in its calculations for purposes of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) accountability. Over 70 distinctive GCD indicators are identified. (Christopher B. Swanson, Urban Institute, December 2004)...

Dropout Rates in the United States: 2001 - Data from the U.S. Census Bureau are used to compute national high school dropout and completion rates, disaggregated by background characteristics such as sex, race/ethnicity, family income, age, region of the country and state. Statistics are reported using three types of dropout calculation methods – event, status and cohort – and an explanation is provided on how each of these three methods can result in varying reported rates. The authors note that in 2000–01, the four-year completion rates ranged from a high of 90.1% in North Dakota to a low of 65.0% in Louisiana. This report can also be browsed by section. (Phillip Kaufman, Martha Naomi Alt and Christopher D. Chapman, National Center for Education Statistics, November 2004)...

Who Graduates? Who Doesn’t?: A Statistical Portrait of Public High School Graduation, Class of 2001 - The author presents the various national high school graduation rates reached by applying several commonly used methods. Using the "Cumulative Promotion Index" (CPI), an Urban Institute-developed method of graduation rate calculation, the author determines the national high school graduation rate to be 68%, a rate lower than that calculated by the other methods. Further analysis reveals that for members of historically disadvantaged minority groups, the national rate barely clears 50%, with additional variations by state, geographical region, student family income, race and gender. A "demographic profile" and "graduation rate profile" is provided for the nation as well as each region (Midwest, Northeast, South, West) and state. (Christopher B. Swanson, The Urban Institute, February 2004)...

Flaws and Remedies: Improving Local, State, and Federal Dropout Reporting - Dropout rates have been key indicators of success in education systems, but there are questions about how accurate they are. This report describes current methods of calculating and defining dropout rates by states, and notes that most states lack an adequate data-collection system for tracking dropout information accurately. The authors provide standards for defining and calculating dropout and at-risk information, and note that, for the best information, automated individual student record systems should be used to track students across schools and school years. The report concludes with a chart identifying problems with current dropout data and specific remedies for each problem. (B. Clements, G. Ligon and V. Paredes, Evaluation Software Publishing, Inc., April 2000)...


Selected Research & Readings Current

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