New High School Graduation Statistics and Legislation

Last week, the National Center for Education Statistics released new statistics about graduation rates and dropouts in public high schools.  The report, Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2008–09, showed a slight growth in the national Average Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) from 74.9% in 2007-08 to 75.5% in 2008-09.[1] The AFGR varied widely by state and ethnicity.  States reported rates as low as 56.3% in Nevada and as high as 90.7% in Wisconsin.  Between the 2007-08 school year and the 2008-09 school year, 22 states raised their AFGR by a percentage point or higher, while nine states decreased by a percentage point or more. The AFGR was reported as 64.8% for American Indian/Alaska Natives, 91.8% for Asian/Pacific Islanders, 65.9% for Hispanic students, 63.5% for black students, and 82% for white students. Pressure may be increasing from Congress on states, districts and schools to raise the graduation rate for all subgroups at a faster pace.  Legislation has been introduced to Congress that would require a “four year adjusted cohort graduation rate” of or above 90% overall and for all subgroups.  If this 90% goal is not met, states, districts, and schools would be required to increase rates by 3% each year until they reach 90% for each subgroup.  Without meeting the 90% benchmark or making 3% growth per year, schools, districts, and states would not make adequate yearly progress (AYP). The Every Student Counts Act would also require standardization of graduation rate calculation and collection.  In order to standardize reporting practices, the Act requires that states report the four year adjusted cohort graduation rate, which is calculated differently than the AFGR.  The four year adjusted cohort graduation rate divides the number of students who graduate on time in a given year by the number of first-time 9th graders enrolled in that class four years earlier, plus and minus the students who transfer in an out.  For more information on state adoption of the adjusted cohort graduation rate, see America’s Promise Building a Grad Nation report. The legislation was introduced to the Senate by Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and to the House by Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA3).  It was referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions on April 7 and the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education on April 15.


Note: This blog post was originally authored under the auspices of the National High School Center at the American Institutes for Research (AIR). The National High School Center’s blog, High School Matters, which ran until March 2013, provided an objective perspective on the latest research, issues, and events that affected high school improvement. The CCRS Center plans to continue relevant work originally developed under the National High School Center grant. National High School Center blog posts that pertain to CCRS Center issues are included on this website as a resource to our stakeholders.

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