New NCES Report on Trends in U.S. High School Dropout and Completion Data

Last week, NCES released Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 1972–2009, a report which identifies trends in dropout and school completion data. The report tracks four different measures of dropout: Event Dropout Rates, Status Dropout Rates, Status Completion Rates, and Average Freshman Graduation Rates (AFGR). Each measure is calculated differently and can be used to inform different educational questions. For instance, the Event Dropout Rate, which represent the percentage of public and private high school students who leave school without a diploma in a given year, is useful in calculating the number of students who have dropped out in a given year, regardless of whether they will return to school later. The Status Dropout Rate, which measures the number of individuals age 16 to 24 who are not in school and do not have a high school credential, is more appropriate for determining how many young people do not have a diploma or GED, and are not in school. The Status Completion Pate provides the percentage of individuals in a certain age range who are not currently enrolled in high school and who have earned a high school diploma or an alternative credential at any point in time. The AFGR, which estimates the proportion of public high school freshmen who graduate with a regular diploma four years after starting ninth grade, focuses on public high school students and provides an estimate of on-time high school graduation. Here are some of the report’s highlights:
  • The Event Dropout Rate has declined from 5.7 percent in 1995 to 3.4 percent in 2009.  The 2009 rate was not measurably different from 2008, when the rate was 3.5 percent.
  • Illinois had the highest Event Dropout Rate (11.5 percent) and Wyoming had the lowest (1.1 percent).
  • The Status Dropout Rate was lower in 2009 than it was in 1972 (8.1 in 2009 and 14.6 in 1972).
  • In 2009, the Status Dropout Rate for individuals with disabilities was twice the rate for individuals without disabilities (15.5 vs. 7.8 percent).
  • The Status Completion Rate for females ages 18–24 who were not enrolled in high school in 2009 was higher (91.2 percent) than their male counterparts (88.3 percent).
  • The AFGR among public school students in the United States for the class of 2008–09 was 75.5 percent, which was higher than the rate for the class of 2007-08 (74.9 percent).
Interested in learning more about high school dropout and completion rates over time?  Download the report here: 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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