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|This article was originally published as the E.D. Tabs report of the same name. The universe data are from the NCES Common Core of Data (CCD).|
Two of the most important indicators of the educational system's success are the rates at which young people complete and drop out of 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 and completing public school (among states that reported dropouts) for school years 199899 and 19992000.
The CCD consists of six 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 from 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 198788 CCD collection. A dropout statistic was added to the Local Education Agency (School District) Universe data file beginning with the 199293 collection (reporting 199192 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. 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. 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 reflected in the enrollment count). Beginning in 1990, NCES defined a dropout as an individual who
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
In the 19992000 school year, 37 states (including the District of Columbia), and in the 199899 school year, 38 states (including the District of Columbia), reported dropouts using the CCD definition. The change in the number of states between the two collection periods occurred because Arizona and Idaho did not report dropouts using the CCD definition in 19992000, while Texas did report them using the CCD definition in 19992000 but not in 199899. Table 1 presents data on 19992000 and 199899 dropouts. In the 19992000 school year, the 9th- through 12th-grade dropout rate in the reporting states ranged from 2.5 percent in Iowa to 9.2 percent in Louisiana. In the 199899 school year, the dropout rate ranged from 2.4 percent in North Dakota to 10.0 percent in Louisiana.
The majority of reporting states in 19992000 (24 of the 37) had dropout rates ranging from 4.0 to 6.0 percent. Eight states had a dropout rate lower than 4.0 percent in the 19992000 school year: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, Virginia, and Wisconsin. In 199899, the number of states with dropout rates ranging from 4.0 to 6.0 percent was smaller, only 20 out of the 38. Nine states had a dropout rate lower than 4.0 percent in the 199899 school year: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
Because of the differing sizes of states, the numbers of dropouts varied greatly among reporting states. In the 19992000 school year, while Texas had the greatest number of dropouts (54,390) among reporting states, it did not have the highest dropout rate. On the other hand, North Dakota had the smallest number of dropouts (1,003) and also had the third lowest dropout rate (2.7 percent) of reporting states.
|Table 1.Dropout numbers and rates in grades 912, by state: School years 19992000 and 199899 |
1Ungraded students are prorated into the 9th- through 12th-grade total for dropout rate calculation purposes. For those states that did not report dropouts, no prorated 9th- through 12th-grade enrollment was calculated.
2This state reported on an alternative July through June cycle rather than the specified October through September cycle.
3Oregon dropout counts erroneously included students who were completers; these students account for approximately 0.2 percent of Oregon's dropout counts.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), Data Files: Local Education Agency (School District) Universe Dropout Data, 199899 and 19992000 (NCES 2002310 and 2002384).
High School Completers
These are individuals who, in a given year, are awarded 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. 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. The equivalency certificate is usually awarded on the basis of the GED test. The CCD asks states to report high school equivalency recipients who are in roughly the same cohort as the regular graduating class, that is, 19 years of age or younger. Although students who receive their GED from a state- or district-recognized program by October 1 are not counted as dropouts in the dropout rate calculation, there are two reasons that GED recipients are not included in the count of high school completers (i.e., they are counted as dropouts) in the 4-year completion rate. First, the count of high school equivalency recipients is only reported at the state level, while the other data collected and used in the 4-year completion rate are reported at the school district level. Second, not all states report the total number of GED recipients.
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?" 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
For a more detailed description of the development and limitations of the completion rate, see Public High School Dropouts and Completers From the Common Core of Data: School Years 199192 Through 199798 (Young and Hoffman 2002).
High school completer results
As with states' numbers of high school dropouts, states' numbers of high school completers varied widely, partially because of the sizes of states' public school populations. As might be expected, in 19992000, the state with the largest public school population, California, had the most high school completers (309,866), and the District of Columbia, with the smallest public school population, had the fewest high school completers (2,916) (table 2). Seven states had more than 100,000 high school completers: California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas.
In the 19992000 school year, the 4 years of dropout data needed to calculate a high school 4-year completion rate were available for 33 states. The high school 4-year completion rates ranged from a high of 89.3 percent in Wisconsin to a low of 62.6 percent in Louisiana for those states with data. (This rate includes other high school completers but does not reflect those receiving a GED-based equivalency credential.) In 19992000, eight of the reporting states had 4-year completion rates above 85 percent: Connecticut, Iowa, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, and Wisconsin. Four states had 4-year completion rates below 75 percent: Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, and New Mexico.
The majority of high school completion credentials are in the form of a diploma. There were 32 reporting states with data available to calculate a 19992000 high school 4-year completion rate that either reported other high school completer data (e.g., certificates of completion) or did not award any type of other high school completer credentials. Other high school completers made up only 1.5 percent of all high school completers in these 32 reporting states (derived from table 2). Twenty-two of these states awarded other high school completion credentials (the other 10 states did not award these credentials) and had data necessary to calculate a 19992000 4-year completion rate for other high school completers (e.g., recipients of certificates of completion). In 5 of these 22 statesAlabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and Tennesseethe percentage of all students who completed by means of another high school completion credential was 5 percent or more.
|Table 2.Four-year high school completion rates, by state: School years 19992000 and 199899|
†Not applicable; state does not award this type of credential.
1Includes regular and other diplomas as well as other completers, but does not include high school equivalency recipients.
2The 4-year completion rate is calculated by dividing the number of high school completers in a given year by the number of high school completers in that year and dropouts over a 4-year period (see report text for further description).
3Michigan completer counts in 19992000 do not include the following districts: Detroit, Lansing, and Litchfield. These three districts accounted for less than 8 percent of all Michigan completers in the 199899 school year.
4Other completers data are missing the following states: Kentucky (19992000 only), New Hampshire, Washington, and Wisconsin.
5Arizona 19992000 completers data are obtained from the "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 200001.
SOURCE: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, Common Core of Data (CCD), Data Files: Local Education Agency (School District) Universe Dropout Data, 199899 and 19992000 (NCES 2002310 and 2002384); "Local Education Agency Universe Survey," 19992000 and 200001; and "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education," 19992000 and 200001.
How does the CCD dropout rate compare with other dropout rates?
NCES publishes three types of dropout rates:
Event rates describe the proportion of students who leave school each year without completing a high school program. This annual measure of recent dropout occurrences provides important information about how effective educators are in keeping students enrolled in school. Data used to compute event rates are collected through the CCD and the Current Population Survey (CPS).
Status rates provide cumulative data on dropouts among all young adults within a specified age range. Status rates are higher than event rates because they include all dropouts regardless of when they last attended school. Since status rates reveal the extent of the dropout problem in the population, these rates also can be used to estimate the need for further education and training designed to help dropouts participate fully in the economy and life of the nation. Data used to calculate status rates for young adults ages 16 through 24 are collected through the CPS.
Cohort rates measure what happens to a group of students over a period of time. These rates are based on repeated measures of a cohort of students with shared experiences and reveal how many students starting in a specific grade drop out over time. Typically, data from longitudinal studies provide more background and contextual information on the students who drop out than is available through the CPS or CCD data collections. Data used to calculate cohort rates were collected through the National Education Longitudinal Study of 1988 (NELS:88) and are included in subsequent longitudinal files.
Conceptually, the dropout collection through the CCD is designed to be consistent with the current CPS procedures. However, there are operational differences in dropout collection procedures between the two data sets. First, the CCD represents a state's public school dropout counts; in other words, the dropout rate represents the number of public school students who have dropped out divided by the total number of public school students enrolled in the state. This differs from the CPS dropout counts in a few ways. The CPS counts include students who were enrolled in either public or private schools. Second, the CPS is a count of young adults who live in the state, not necessarily those who went to school in that state. The third difference between CPS and CCD dropout collection procedures is that the CCD collects data on dropouts from grades 7 through 12 and reports event rates based on grades 9 through 12 versus only grades 10 through 12 in the CPS. Fourth, the CCD collection is based on administrative records rather than a household survey, as in the CPS. One other difference is that, in contrast to the CPS, the CCD collection counts those students who leave public school to enroll in GED programs (outside the public education system) as dropouts, but they are not counted as dropouts in the estimates NCES publishes based on CPS data. Finally, the CPS is not traditionally used to report state-level dropout estimates.
How does the CCD 4-year completion rate differ from the CPS completion rate?
The CCD and CPS are different types of data collections that lead to different completion rates. The CCD is an annual administrative records data collection from SEAs of data about schools, districts, and states. The CPS is a monthly household survey of 50,000 households conducted by the Bureau of the Census for the Bureau of Labor Statistics to provide information about employment, unemployment, and other characteristics of the civilian noninstitutionalized population.
Many of the differences between the CCD and CPS dropout collections are evident in their respective data collection procedures. There are additional distinctions, however. The CCD is more of an accountability measure for states, while the CPS measure defines a population. The main difference is that the CCD 4-year completion rate is a leaver rate: of those who left school, how many completed. The CPS measures an age group of the population (in NCES' case 18- to 24-year-olds) and asks if they graduated from school. Thus, the CCD estimates a cohort completion rate for those who have left school, while the CPS provides a status rate based on the total young adult population.
Because not all states report dropouts using the CCD definition, the CCD cannot provide national totals for dropout or completion rates. It is also not advisable to create "reporting state" totals, because the bias introduced by those states that are missing is unknown. When all states are able to report to NCES using the CCD dropout definition, a national total of dropouts and completers can and will be reported.
Kaufman, P., Alt, M.N., and Chapman, C.D. (2001). Dropout Rates in the United States:2000 (NCES 2002114). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.
Young, B.A., and Hoffman, L. (2002). Public High School Dropouts and Completers From the Common Core of Data: School Years 199192 Through 199798 (NCES 2002317). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.