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Public High School Dropouts and Completers from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2000-01

Lee Hoffman
National Center for Education Statistics


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 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.


Background

The CCD consists of five surveys that are completed each year by state education agencies (SEAs). Three of these surveys provide basic statistical information about public elementary/secondary institutions, students, and staff. Although all information is reported directly by SEAs, the surveys include data about individual states, local education agencies, and schools. The numbers of students who complete high school with a regular diploma or some alternative credential have been reported at the state and local education agency levels since the 1987-88 CCD collection. A dropout statistic was added to the Local Education Agency (School District) Universe beginning with the 1992-93 collection (reporting 1991-92 dropouts).


Limitations in This Report

The high school 4-year completion rate presented here differs in its calculation from other published rates, and readers should be alert to this when making comparisons with other studies (see a list of current NCES reports on this subject at the end of this report). The inclusion of both regular and other high school completions, and the exclusion of General Educational Development (GED) recipients, may also lead to differences with other reports (see the "High School Completers" section for a further description).

Also, state and local policies and data collection administration may have profound effects on the count of dropouts and completers reported by a state. One example of a discrepancy is that not all states provide multiple types of high school completions. Some states award regular diplomas to all students while others award some form of alternative credential to special education students. Another example of a discrepancy is the degree of rigor with which states or districts verify the enrollment status of students who have transferred out of state. Dropout and completion data collected by the CCD are reported from the administrative records of SEAs. Some states collect their data through student-level records systems, while others collect aggregate data from schools and districts. Although state CCD Coordinators verify each year that they have followed the CCD dropout definition, states vary in their ability to track students who move in and out of districts, and it is probable that some students have been misclassified.

High School Dropouts

Determining Dropout Status. The CCD definition determines whether an individual is a dropout by his or her enrollment status at the beginning of the school year (the same day used for the enrollment count). Beginning in 1990, NCES defined a dropout as an individual who

  1. was enrolled in school at some time during the previous school year (e.g., 1999-2000); and
  2. was not enrolled at the beginning of the current school year (e.g., 2000-01); and
  3. has not graduated from high school or completed a state- or district-approved educational program; and
  4. does not meet any of the following exclusionary conditions:
  5. transfer to another public school district, private school, or state- or district-approved educational program (including correctional or health facility programs);
  6. temporary absence due to suspension or school-excused illness; or
  7. death.
Individuals who complete 1 year of school but fail to enroll at the beginning of the subsequent year ("summer dropouts") are counted as dropouts from the school year and grade in which they fail to enroll. Those who leave secondary education but are enrolled in an adult education program at the beginning of the school year are considered dropouts. However, note that dropout status is determined by a student's status on October 1. Students who receive their GED certificate by October 1 are not counted as dropouts if the state or district recognizes this as an approved program. Although a student whose whereabouts are unknown is considered a dropout, states are not required to count students who leave the United States as dropouts even if there is no information about such students' subsequent enrollment status. A student can be counted as a dropout only once for a single school year but can, if he or she repeatedly drops out and re-enrolls, appear as a dropout in more than 1 year.

Dropout Rate. This is an annual event dropout rate: the number of dropouts for a school year divided by the number of students enrolled at the beginning of that school year. For example, to compute the 9th- through 12th-grade dropout rate, the calculation is


Number of October 1st 9th- through 12th-grade dropouts

October 1st 9th- through 12th-grade enrollment count


High School Dropout Results

2000-01 School Year. In the 2000-01 school year, 45 states reported dropouts using the CCD definition.1 The 9th- through 12th-grade dropout rate in the reporting states ranged from 2.2 percent in North Dakota to 10.9 percent in Arizona (table 1).

The majority of reporting states in 2000-01 (26 of the 45) had dropout rates ranging from 4.0 to 7.0 percent. The median dropout rate of reporting states was 4.2. There were four states that had a dropout rate of less than 3.0: Iowa, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Three states had dropout rates of more than 8.0 percent: Alaska, Arizona, and Louisiana.

Because of differences in public school-age population size, the numbers of dropouts varied greatly among reporting states. In the 2000-01 school year, while Texas had the greatest number of dropouts (46,973) among reporting states, it did not have the highest dropout rate. On the other hand, North Dakota had the smallest number of dropouts (784) and also had the lowest dropout rate of reporting states.

Over Time. Table 2 presents the dropout rates for the aggregate of grades 9 through 12 from 1991-92 through 2000-01. During the first 2 years of the dropout statistic collection, no more than 15 states reported publishable data. Because the data are most complete for the period 1993-94 through 2000-01, discussion of changes over time will be limited to this time period for states reporting in both 1993-94 and 2000-01.
A total of 33 states reported publishable data for both 1993-94 and 2000-01 (Louisiana's data were not comparable between these 2 years and were also not included in this analysis). Among this group, the range of dropout rates generally decreased from 1993-94 to 2000-01. Dropout rates for reporting states in 1993-94 ranged from a low of 2.7 percent in North Dakota to a high of 13.7 percent in Arizona. Seven years later, the reported rates ranged from 2.2 percent in North Dakota to 10.9 percent in Arizona.

Of those 33 states that had dropout rates in 1993-94 and 2000-01, 8 states (24 percent) reported dropout rates of less than 4 percent in 1993-94; this increased to 12 states (36 percent) in 2000-01. In 1993-94, dropout rates for 20 of the 33 states ranged from 4 to 7 percent. In 2000-01, 19 of the 33 states had dropout rates that ranged from 4 to 7 percent. Of those 33 states, 6 states reported dropout rates of higher than 7 percent in 1993-94, and only 3 states reported dropout rates of higher than 7 percent in 2000-01.

Dropout rates were more likely to decline than increase over the 7-year interval: only 4 of the 33 reporting states increased and none by more than 1 percentage point. In this period, the dropout rates decreased by at least 2 percentage points in Arizona, Idaho, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon.

By Race/Ethnicity. High school dropout rates for each of five racial/ethnic groups2 were calculated by dividing the number of grade 9 through 12 dropouts in a racial/ethnic group by the grade 9 through 12 membership for that group. Of the 46 states that reported dropouts for the 2000-01 school year, 43 were able to do so by race/ethnicity (table 3). Caution should be used when interpreting results by race/ethnicity as some of the racial/ethnic group populations are quite small in some states. To see the percentage of individuals in each racial/ethnic group in each of the states, see appendix A-1.

In the 2000-01 school year, dropout rates were generally lowest for White, non-Hispanic and Asian/Pacific Islander students and highest for American Indian/Alaska Native; Black, non-Hispanic; and Hispanic students in reporting states. Relative to groups other than White, non-Hispanic students, dropping out was rare for Asian/Pacific Islander high school students in reporting states. The Asian/Pacific Islander dropout rate was less than 4 percent in more than two-thirds (30) of reporting states. No state reported a dropout rate of 10 percent or more for this group (table 3).

More than 15 percent of American Indian/Alaska Native high school students dropped out in Arizona, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Twelve states had a dropout rate of 10 percent or higher for American Indian/Alaska Native students. Only one state (Wyoming) reported a Black, non-Hispanic dropout rate of more than 15 percent. However, there were eight states that reported dropout rates of 10 percent or more among Black, non-Hispanic high school students. Among Hispanic high school students, dropout rates were 10 percent or higher in 11 reporting states.

By District Locale Code. The CCD assigns each school a locale code that identifies its location relative to a population center; the codes range from "large city" to "rural." The school locale codes have been aggregated to the school districts with which the schools are associated, and the dropout rates among the different types of locales are shown in table 4. (See the Technical Notes for district locale code methodology and definitions.) Not all states have one or more school districts in every locale. Hawaii, for example, consists of a single urban fringe school district while South Dakota has no large city school districts. Because of this, caution should be used when interpreting state differences.

Relatively high dropout rates were most often observed in reporting school districts that served large or midsize cities and least frequently in rural areas. Nine reporting states had dropout rates of more than 10 percent in large city school districts, while only one state had a dropout rate of more than 10 percent for its rural school districts inside of a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSAs).

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High School Completers

The term "high school completer" includes both diploma recipients and other high school completers. Thus, the CCD 4-year high school completion rate includes both diploma recipients and other high school completers. (This rate includes other high school completers but does not reflect those receiving a GED-based equivalency credential.)

Diploma Recipients. These are individuals who are awarded, in a given year, a high school diploma or a diploma that recognizes some higher level of academic achievement. They can be thought of as students who meet or exceed the coursework and performance standards for high school completion established by the state or other relevant authorities.

Other High School Completers. These individuals receive a certificate of attendance or some other credential in lieu of a diploma. Students awarded this credential typically meet requirements that differ from those for a high school diploma. Some states do not issue an "other high school completion" type of certificate, but award all students who complete school a diploma regardless of what academic requirements the students have met. Thus, in order to make data as comparable as possible across states, this report includes both regular and other diploma recipients in its high school 4-year completion rate.

Exclusion of High School Equivalency Recipients. High school equivalency recipients are awarded a credential certifying that they have met state or district requirements for high school completion by passing an examination or completing some other performance requirement. High school equivalency diplomas are considered valid completion credentials, but high school equivalency recipients are not included in the CCD completion rate. There are two reasons for this exclusion. First, high school equivalency recipients are reported on the CCD only at the state level and can not be disaggregated to the district level. Second, not all states report high school equivalency counts on the CCD, and the statistic is therefore not comparable across states.

High School 4-year Completion Rate. Put simply, this rate asks, "Of those students who have left school, what proportion have done so as completers?" This rate does not include those students who are still enrolled. The rate incorporates 4 years' worth of data and thus is an estimated cohort rate. It is calculated by dividing the number of high school completers by the sum of dropouts for grades 9 through 12, respectively, in consecutive years, plus the number of completers. If a hypothetical graduating class began as 9th-graders in year 1, this 4-year completion rate would look like


High School Completers Year 4

Dropouts (Grade 9 Year 1 + Grade 10 Year 2 + Grade 11 Year 3 + Grade 12 Year 4)
+ High School Completers Year 4


Note that the completion rate is not the same as a cohort graduation rate that shows the proportion of 9th grade students who graduate 4 years later. To get a more detailed description of the development and limitations of the dropout and completion rates, see: Public High School Dropouts and Completers From the Common Core of Data: School Years 1991-92 Through 1997-98 (NCES 2002-317).


High School Completer Results

2000-01 School Year. As with states' numbers of high school dropouts, states' numbers of high school completers varied widely, in part because of the sizes of states' public school populations. As might be expected, in 2000-01, the state with the largest public school population, California, had the most high school completers (316,124), and the District of Columbia, with the smallest public school population,3 had the fewest high school completers (3,043). Seven states had more than 100,000 high school completers: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas (table 5).

In the 2000-01 school year, the 4 years of dropout data needed to calculate a high school 4-year completion rate were available for 39 states. The high school 4-year completion rates ranged from a high of 90.1 in North Dakota to a low of 65.0 in Louisiana for those states with data. In 2000-01, seven of the reporting states had 4-year completion rates above 85 percent: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Five states had 4-year completion rates below 75 percent: Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, and New Mexico.

The majority of high school completion credentials are in the form of a diploma. There were 37 reporting states with data available to calculate a 2000-01 high school 4-year completion rate that either reported other high school completer data (i.e., certificates of completion) or did not award any type of other high school completer credentials (Wisconsin and Wyoming's other high school completers were missing and were therefore not included). Other high school completers made up only 1.8 percent of all high school completers in these 37 reporting states (derived from table 5). Twenty-eight of these states awarded other high school completion credentials (the other nine states did not award these credentials) and had data necessary to calculate a 2000-01 4-year completion rate for other high school completers (e.g., recipients of certificates of completion). In 6 of these 28 states-Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Oregon, and Tennessee-the percent of all students who completed by means of another high school completion credential was 5 percent or more.

Over Time. Table 6 presents the rate of high school completions over time (including diplomas and other high school completers, but excluding high school equivalencies). It is important to note that states have different policies in regard to awarding high school diplomas versus other high school credentials. Caution should be used when comparing states.

This report includes 4-year completion rates for the 1994-95 through 2000-01 school years (table 6). Since 4 years of dropout data are required to calculate a 4-year high school completion rate, fewer than 15 states had completion rates in 1994-95 or 1995-96. For this reason, discussions of the 4-year completion rate over time will be based on the 1996-97 and 2000-01 school years; there are 32 states that had 4-year high school completion rates in these 2 years. Seven of the states' 4-year completion rates went down between 1996-97 and 2000-01. The changes (increases and decreases) were relatively small: less than 2 percentage points in 18 states. Two states, Idaho and Nevada, increased their 4-year high school completion rates by over 9 percentage points between 1996-97 and 2000-01.

By Race/Ethnicity. Four-year completion rates by race/ethnicity can be presented for 36 states in the 2000-01 school year in table 7. Caution should be used when interpreting results by race/ethnicity as some of the racial/ethnic group populations are quite small in some states. For the percentage of individuals in each racial/ethnic group in the state, see appendix A-2.

As might be expected given the dropout rates, Asian/Pacific Islander and White, non-Hispanic students were more likely to have higher completion rates than Black, non-Hispanic; Hispanic; and American Indian/Alaska Native students. Six reporting states had high school 4-year completion rates below 60 percent for Black, non-Hispanic students, seven reporting states for Hispanic students, and 8 reporting states for American Indian/Alaska Native students. No state had a 4-year completion rate below 60 percent for Asian/Pacific Islander or White students.

Seventy-eight percent (28) of reporting states had a White, non-Hispanic 4-year completion rate and 75 percent (27) had an Asian/Pacific Islander 4-year high school completion rate of over 80 percent.

By District Locale Code. As is evident from table 8, reporting states' large city school districts were more likely than other districts to have a relatively low high school 4-year completion rate of less than 60 percent. In 2000-01, no reporting state's large city school districts had 4-year completion rates of 80 percent or more. The reporting states' districts in urban fringes of large cities fared much better, with 19 (66 percent) with completion rates of 80 percent or more. The same was true for 25 (74 percent) districts in urban fringes of midsize cities.

Four-year completion rates of 80 percent or higher were more likely to occur in reporting states' rural school districts than any other district locale. In fact, more than three-fourths of the reporting states had a 4-year completion rate of 80 percent or more in their rural school districts (78 percent in rural districts outside of MSAs and 80 percent in rural districts inside of MSAs).


Footnotes

1 The following four states' 2000-01 dropout data were not available: California, Colorado, Indiana, and Michigan (the District of Columbia is also not available). These states did not report dropouts that were consistent with the NCES definition.
2 The groups were American Indian/Alaska Native; Asian/Pacific Islander; Hispanic; Black, non-Hispanic; and White, non-Hispanic. Non-White includes all groups except White, non-Hispanic.
3 Total students by state is from the state-level survey and can be found in Public School Student, Staff, and Graduate Counts by State: School Year 2001-02 (Young 2003).

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