How America counts graduation rates

A reader wrote in the following summary of how American graduation rates are calculated.  Interestingly they seem to be in direct contrast to how Bermuda’s new calculations are performed.

In 2005 governors of all 50 American states signed the Graduation Counts Compact and committed to a common method for calculating each state’s high school graduation rate. In addition to agreeing to a common formula for calculating the graduation rate, the governors committed to leading efforts to improve state data collection, reporting, and analysis; reporting additional indicators of outcomes for students; and reporting annually on their progress toward improved high school graduation, completion, and dropout data. The governors undertook this commitment because they understand the imperative to gather more accurate, comparable data on how many of their students graduate from high school on time.

The States agreed to calculate the graduation rate by dividing the number of on-time graduates in a given year by the number of first-time entering ninth graders four years earlier. This is very different from the abbreviated accounting now used by Bermuda which shows a higher graduation rate.

The Graduation Counts Compact can be found here: http://www.nga.org/portal/site/nga/menuitem.9123e83a1f6786440ddcbeeb501010a0/?vgnextoid=f57c04493f5bc010VgnVCM1000001a01010aRCRD

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3 thoughts on “How America counts graduation rates

  1. One sentence from the article which should have been included by the referee:
    “The denominator can be adjusted for transfers in and out of the
    system…”
    Now, I’m not exactly sure how the Americans define “leaving the system”. Does it mean students switching to private schooling? Or home schooling? Moving to a different school district? Moving to a different state? I’m betting the governors know, but we’re still unsure of how much “adjustment” goes on. Basically, it doesn’t seem as cut and dry as the post alludes.
    For us in Bermuda, I believe the denominator adjustment due to students “leaving the system” is even more important to conveying accurate and meaningful statistics on graduation rates because of the relative impact one student has on the graduation rate.
    Personally, I’d like to see all the numbers since it should be fairly easy to track student membership amongst different and meaningful groups. And I’d also like to see a backfill exercise completed (as far back as feasible) to see how the numbers should’ve been reported in the past.
    CMT

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