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Status of Education in Rural America
NCES 2007-040
June 2007

2.5. Public high school graduation


The averaged freshman graduation rate for public high schools during the 2002–03 school year was higher in rural areas than in cities, but was lower in rural areas than in towns and suburbs.

Nationally, during the 2002–03 school year, the averaged graduation rate1 for the freshman class of 1999–2000 was 73 percent (figure 2.5). The averaged freshman graduation rate was higher in rural areas (75 percent) than across the nation as a whole. This rate was higher in rural areas than in cities (65 percent), but was lower in rural areas than in towns and suburbs (76 and 79 percent, respectively).

Among the three rural locale types, the averaged freshman graduation rate was higher in remote rural areas (79 percent) than in distant rural and rural fringe areas (75 and 74 percent, respectively). The averaged freshman graduation rates in distant rural and rural fringe areas were lower than the rates in suburbs and towns. However, the averaged freshman graduation rate in remote rural areas was higher than the rate in towns and was comparable to the rate in suburban areas.


1 The averaged freshman graduation rate provides an estimate of the percentage of public high school students who graduate on time. The rate is the number of graduates divided by the estimated count of freshmen 4 years earlier. The estimated averaged freshman enrollment count is the sum of the number of 8th-graders 5 years earlier, the number of 9th-graders 4 years earlier (because this is when current year seniors were freshmen), and the number of 10th-graders 3 years earlier, divided by 3. (Enrollment counts used for these calculations include a proportional distribution of students not enrolled in a specific grade.) The averaging is intended to account for higher grade retentions in the 9th grade. Graduates include only those who earned regular diplomas or diplomas for advanced academic achievement (e.g., honors diplomas) as defined by the state or district. This measure is sensitive to in and out migration at the school district level. Please see Seastrom et al. (2006) for a more detailed discussion of the averaged freshman graduation rate compared to other NCES graduation rate measures. For a comparison of measures of educational attainment, see appendix B.

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