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Introduction

This report presents the number of high school graduates, the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR), and the dropout data for grades 9–12 for public schools in school year 2008–09. State Education Agencies report these counts of graduates, dropouts, and enrollments to the National Center for Education Statistics' (NCES) Common Core of Data (CCD) nonfiscal survey of public elementary/secondary education as part of the Cooperative Education Statistics System established in section 157 of the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002, part C and the U. S. Department of Education's EDFacts data collection system. Although data from seven sequential school years are presented in tables 3 and 7, only comparisons between the 2007–08 and 2008–09 school years are presented in the text.

Graduation data. The AFGR provides an estimate of the percentage of high school students who graduate on time. The rate uses aggregate student enrollment data to estimate the size of an incoming freshman class and counts of the number of diplomas awarded 4 years later. The incoming freshman class size is estimated by summing the enrollment in 8th grade in 1 year, 9th grade for the next year, and 10th grade for the year after, and then dividing by three. The averaging is intended to account for prior year retentions in the 9th grade. Although not as accurate as an on-time graduation rate computed from a cohort of students using student record data, this estimate of an on-time graduation rate can be computed with currently available cross-sectional data. Based on a technical review and analysis, the AFGR was selected as the most accurate indicator from a number of alternative estimates that can be calculated using available cross-sectional data (Seastrom et al. 2006a, 2006b).

Graduates are those students who are reported as diploma recipients. These are individuals who are awarded a regular 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 a state or another relevant authority. Other high school completers who were awarded alternate credentials such as a certificate of completion or an equivalency credential are not included in the AFGR calculations because they are not considered regular graduates.

This report includes counts of high school graduates for school year 200809 for 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Data for high school graduates were missing from CCD reports for the Bureau of Indian Education, Department of Defense dependent schools (domestic and overseas), American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and Guam. Graduate counts are presented by race/ethnicity for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • Nevada did not report graduates for the 2008–09 collection. Graduation data presented in this report and the accompanying data files for Nevada have been imputed only at the state level based on the 2007–08 graduates and the enrollment data reported for school years 2004–05 through 2008–09. Imputations were performed such that the prior year graduation rate was maintained. The race/ethnicity graduate counts were derived from the prior year, 12th grade to diploma ratio and then raked to the imputed total diploma count. The AFGR could not be calculated by race/ethnicity for Nevada because enrollments by race/ethnicity were not reported for the 2004–05 school year. Gender data only appear on the district level file. Therefore, gender imputations were not performed.
  • The AFGR for Maine could not be calculated by race/ethnicity because: (a) Maine reported 1,169 diplomas that were awarded to students attending private high schools that received a majority of their funding from public sources; (b) the racial/ethnic breakdown of these diploma recipients was not known, and therefore the counts of diploma recipients by race could not be edited to exclude these students; and (c) these 1,169 students were not included in Maine's enrollment counts in prior years, and therefore the enrollment data used to calculate the AFGR did not represent these students.
  • California did not report graduation data for 2008–09. Graduation data presented in this report and the accompanying data files for California have been imputed only at the state level. Imputations were performed such that the prior year graduation rates were maintained at the race/ethnicity level. Gender data only appear on the district level file. Therefore, gender imputations were not performed.

A more detailed discussion of the calculation of AFGR is contained in appendix A.

Dropout data. The CCD defines a dropout as a student who was enrolled at any time during the previous school year who is not enrolled at the beginning of the current school year and who has not successfully completed school. Students who have transferred to another school, died, moved to another country, or who are out of school due to illness are not considered dropouts. A more detailed discussion of the definition of "dropout" is contained in appendix A.

The event dropout rate describes the proportion of students who drop out in a single year. The rate is the number of students who drop out of a given grade divided by the number of students enrolled in that grade at the beginning of that school year. Prior to 2007–08, local education agencies (LEAs) assigned ungraded dropouts to a grade and ungraded student membership was redistributed into grades by NCES. Beginning with 2007–08 ungraded dropouts were reported as a separate category. Therefore, for 2007–08 and beyond, ungraded students and dropouts were not included in any individual grade-level dropout rates. These ungraded students and dropouts were, however, prorated into grades in order to calculate high school dropout rates (i.e., rates for grades 9–12) for school year 2007–08 and beyond. Appendix A of this report describes in more detail how this rate is calculated.

This report includes 200809 school year dropout data for 50 states, the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • Due to a policy in Vermont of suppressing any dropout counts with a magnitude of 10 or lower, the extent of missing data at the district level and the race/ethnicity detail at the state level resulted in the full suppression of district level dropout counts and race/ethnicity dropout counts at the state level for Vermont. Because Vermont has been suppressing these data for several years it was not possible to accurately impute the dropout rates for Vermont.
  • California and Nevada did not report dropout data for 2008–09. Dropout data presented in this report and the accompanying data files for California and Nevada have been imputed only at the state level. Imputations were performed such that the prior year dropout rates were maintained at the race/ethnicity level. Gender data only appear on the district level file. Therefore, gender imputations were not performed.
  • The reported dropout counts for Puerto Rico produced unrealistically low dropout rates and were therefore suppressed (see appendix A for more details).
  • The Bureau of Indian Education, Department of Defense dependent schools (domestic and overseas), American Samoa, the Northern Marianas, and Guam did not report dropouts.

Because the purpose of First Look reports is to introduce new data, it is only possible to include general information with limited detail. The data gathered as part of this CCD collection include school district-level detail beyond what is represented in this report. Data files and report tables include data for the 50 states, District of Columbia, and 8 other jurisdictions. However, the findings discussed in this report are limited to the reporting states and the District of Columbia. The data from this collection are included in three different data files:

  • The NCES Common Core of Data State Dropout and Completion Data File: School Year 2008–09 presents data on high school dropouts (grades 9–12) by grade, race/ethnicity, and gender; regular and other high school graduates by race/ethnicity; and General Education Diploma (GED) recipients.
  • The NCES Common Core of Data Local Education Agency Universe Survey Dropout and Completion Public-Use Data File: School Year 2008–09 presents data on high school dropouts (grades 9–12, aggregated); and regular and other high school graduates.
  • The NCES Common Core of Data Local Education Agency Universe Survey Dropouts and Completion Restricted-Use Data File: School Year 2008–09 presents data on dropouts (grades 7–12, disaggregated) by grade, race/ethnicity, and gender; and regular and other high school graduates by race/ethnicity and gender.

The state-level and public-use, LEA-level data files are available for download from the NCES website. The restricted-use, LEA-level data files are available to qualified researchers through the NCES restricted-use data license program.

More information about these, and other CCD surveys and products, is available here.

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