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Introduction

This report presents the number of high school completers, the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR), and the dropout data for grades 912 for public schools in school year 200910. State Education Agencies (SEAs) report annual counts of completers, 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 tables 3 and 7 present data from eight sequential school years, the text presents only comparisons between the 200809 and 200910 school years.

The purpose of this First Look is to introduce new data through the presentation of tables containing descriptive information. Selected findings chosen for this report demonstrate the range of information available on the 200910 CCD Dropout and Completer provisional data files. The selected findings do not represent a complete review of all observed differences in the data and are not meant to emphasize any particular issue. Data files and report tables include data for the 50 states, the District of Columbia, and 8 other jurisdictions. However, the findings discussed in this report focus on the reporting states and the District of Columbia.

This First Look marks the first publication and the initial data release for 200910 CCD dropout and completer data. The data in this report are drawn from the 200910 CCD Dropout and Completer provisional data files. Data in these provisional data files have undergone an intensive review and editing process. Any additional revisions will be incorporated in the 200910 CCD Dropout and Completer data files to be released in subsequent provisional releases and the final release as warranted.

Completers: Students are considered "completers" if they are either awarded a high school diploma or other alternate credentials such as a certificate of completion or an equivalency credential. Graduates are those students who are reported as diploma recipients. Throughout this reports the terms "graduate" and "diploma recipient" are used interchangeably. Students who receive an alternate credential such as a certificate of attendance or an equivalency credential are considered "other high school completers." Although the CCD Dropout and Completer Supplemental Data Files include counts of graduates and other high school completers, this report focuses on students who receive a regular high school diploma.

AFGR. The AFGR provides an estimate of the percentage of high school students who graduate within 4 years of first starting 9th grade. 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 accounts for prior year retentions in the 9th grade enrollment counts. Although not as accurate as a 4-year graduation rate computed from a cohort of students using student record data, the AFGR can be computed with currently available cross-sectional data. Based on a technical review and analysis of several 4-year graduation rates, 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).

The AFGR was intended to address a lack of regular information about timeliness of graduating from public high schools. Precise measures of how long it takes for a student to graduate high school require data sources that follow the progress of each individual student over time. Until recently, most states lacked data systems that captured individual public-school student-level data over time. The AFGR was developed to utilize data that were available across the 50 states on a regular basis to provide a general and comparable measure of the percentage of public high school students who graduate with a regular high school diploma within 4 years of first entering 9th grade. Data to generate the AFGR are available going back in time to at least the 1960s.

While this report focuses on the AFGR, the Department of Education has, for the first-time this year, collected and released data on another, more precise 4-year graduation rate across most states. This more precise rate is referred to as the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR)1. While the ACGR provides a more precise 4-year graduation rate, publication of the AFGR will continue. Reporting of the AFGR in the short term is necessary as the Department has not yet completed a thorough evaluation of ACGR data elements and comparability. As such, the AFGR will continue to provide well understood and comparable statistics until the ACGR evaluations have been completed. The AFGR also makes possible the analysis of trends in graduation rates. As noted, ACGR rates are available for most states starting with the graduating class of 2011. For policy makers, analysts, and the general public interested in studying how rates of those graduating within 4 years of starting 9th grade have changed over time, the ACGR will not be available. AFGR will be used to fill this data need.

Graduation Data. 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 graduation established by a state or another relevant authority. The AFGR does not include other high school completers who were awarded alternate credentials such as a certificate of completion or an equivalency credential because they are not considered regular graduates.

This report includes counts of high school graduates for school year 2009-10 for 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • Data for high school graduates are 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.
  • NCES suppressed local education agency (LEA) reports of high school graduate counts and rates for Connecticut. These data did not conform to NCES standards. NCES imputed high school graduate data for Connecticut at the state level only and presents these imputed data in this report.
  • NCES edited Maine's 9th-grade enrollment count for 200607 to include 1,419 9th grade students who attended private schools that receive a majority of their funding from public sources. Maine did not report these students in public school files prior to the 200708 collection but did include this cohort of students in the 10th-grade count for 200708 and in the graduate count for 200910. The publicly funded private schools only include grades 9 through 12; as a result no adjustments to the 200506 8th-grade student counts were necessary.

Appendix A contains a more detailed discussion of the calculation of the AFGR.

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. Appendix A contains a more detailed discussion of the definition of "a dropout."

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. LEAs assigned ungraded dropouts to a grade and ungraded student membership were redistributed into grades by NCES prior to 200708. Beginning with 200708, LEAs reported ungraded dropouts as a separate category. Therefore, for 200708 and beyond, individual grade-level dropout rates do not include ungraded students. While not included in individual grade dropout rates after 2006-07, NCES has prorated ungraded students and dropouts into grades in order to calculate an aggregated dropout rate for 9th- through 12th-grade students since that time. Appendix A of this report describes in more detail how this rate is calculated.

This report includes 200910 school year dropout data for 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

  • The Bureau of Indian Education, Department of Defense dependent schools (domestic and overseas), American Samoa, the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, and Guam did not report dropouts.
  • NCES suppressed dropout data for Puerto Rico due to low dropout counts that were unconfirmed by Puerto Rico.
  • NCES imputed dropout data for the District of Columbia at the state level because the District of Columbia reported dropout counts that would imply a dropout rate of less than 1 percent, and the District of Columbia did not confirm these data. Data were imputed based on prior-year rates.
  • NCES suppressed dropout data for Kentucky, Maine, and Mississippi at the LEA-level because their LEA-level reporting accounted for less than 85 percent of their state-level reporting. These suppressions affected the dropout data presented on table 8; which were aggregated from the LEA-level reporting. Tables 1 through 7 present data reported at the SEA-level only and were not affected by these suppressions.

Data accuracy. This report and the accompanying data files provide counts reported to NCES by the SEA respondents and rates calculated from those counts. Submitted data are subject to quality control edit checks and NCES provides the results back to the SEA respondents. NCES checks reported data for internal, cross-level, and cross-year consistency and suggests edits. SEAs are asked to respond to these edits and provide either data revisions or explanations for the identified anomalies. In the case of unexplained or unresolved critical data errors, NCES adjusts, suppresses, or imputes the data in question to correct for internal and cross-level consistency. Critical data errors are defined by:

  • Cases where the counts at a lower-level of aggregation exceed counts at higher levels of aggregation;
  • Cases where a graduate count exceeds the enrolled population count by more than 5 percent,
  • Cases where the dropout count exceeds the enrolled population count.

Another measure of internal consistency is the correspondence between graduation rates and dropout rates. High graduation rates should accompany low dropout rates and vice-versa. This relationship is found for many states but not all. When these figures do not line up it is difficult to determine why, given how CCD data are collected. The CCD collects student membership counts at the beginning of the school year. Membership counts are the denominators of the graduation and dropout rates. Graduate and dropout counts represent graduates and dropouts that occur throughout the school year and subsequent summer. These counts are used as the numerator in the graduation and dropout rates. Graduate, dropout, and enrollment counts may be over reported or under reported. Similarly, policy changes and population shifts (such as the out-migration from New Orleans following Katrina) may affect these key data components, generating apparent inconsistencies. Such changes occurring during the course of school year can cause rates to move out of alignment. NCES does not collect information about changes to enrollment counts during the course of a school year and such information would be needed to evaluated inconsistencies observed in the rates.

Data Files. The high school dropout and completion data from CCD are included in three different data files:

  • The NCES Common Core of Data State Dropout and Completion Data File: School Year 200910 presents data on high school dropouts (grades 912) by grade, race/ethnicity, and gender; regular and other high school graduates by race/ethnicity, and gender; 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 200910 presents data on high school dropouts (grades 912, 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 200910 presents data on dropouts (grades 712, disaggregated) by grade, race/ethnicity, and gender; and regular and other high school graduates by race/ethnicity and gender.

NCES provides the state-level and public-use, LEA-level data files as downloadable content on the NCES website. NCES provides the restricted-use LEA-level data files to qualified researchers through the NCES restricted-use data license program.

More information about these, and other CCD surveys and products, is available at http://nces.ed.gov/ccd.

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1 The Department of Education, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education released a preliminary ACGR on November 28, 2012 through their ED Data Express online data tool (http://eddataexpress.ed.gov).

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