Skip Navigation
Public High School Dropouts and Completers from the Common Core of Data: School Years 1998-99 and 1999-2000

Technical Notes

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 are available through the CPS or CCD data collections. Data used to calculate cohort rates were collected through the National Education Longitudinal Survey 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 over 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. Secondly, 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 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 that leave 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.

National totals

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.


Thanks are due to Julia Naum, Michael Freeman, and Kathryn Chamberlain from the Census Bureau for the creation and production of the tables. Special thanks as always go to Lee Hoffman, Jennifer Sable, and Tai Phan who provided data and editorial support for this report.

The author gratefully acknowledges the comments and suggestions of the reviewers. Reviewers from outside the Department of Education include Quansheng Shen, New Jersey Department of Education, and Melinda Fowler, Texas Education Agency. Reviewers from the Department of Education include Christine Jackson, Office of Elementary and Secondary Education, Carolyn Lee, Office of Vocational and Adult Education, and Jim Houser, Office of the Deputy Secretary. Thanks to the following reviewers from NCES: Chris Chapman, Barbara Holton, Janice Plotczyk, Marilyn Seastrom, and Tom Snyder.


Young, B., and Hoffman, L. (2002). Public High School Dropouts and Completers From the Common Core of Data: School Years 1991-92 through 1997-98. (NCES 2002-317). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

Kaufman, P., Alt, M., and Chapman, C. (2002). Dropout Rates in the United States: 2000. (NCES 2002-114). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

[back to top]