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Dropout Rates in The United States: 2002 and 2003

NCES 2008-053
September 2008

Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates (AFGR) for Public School Students

The averaged freshman graduation rate provides an estimate of the percentage of public high school students who graduate on time-that is, four years after starting 9th grade-with a regular diploma. The rate uses aggregate student enrollment data to estimate the size of an incoming freshman class and aggregate counts of the number of diplomas awarded 4 years later. The incoming freshman class size is estimated by summing the enrollment in 8th grade for one year, 9th grade for the next year, and 10th grade for the year after and then dividing by 3. The averaging is intended to account for higher grade 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 data. The AFGR was selected from a number of alternative estimates that can be calculated using cross-sectional data based on a technical review and analysis of a set of alternative estimates (Seastrom et al., forthcoming). AFGR estimates are based on the Common Core of Data, State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education, with ungraded enrollments distributed proportionally to reported enrollments by grade (Seastrom et al. 2005).19

  • National averaged freshman graduation rate for public school students: The averaged freshman graduation rate among public school students in the United States for the class of 2002-03 was 73.9 percent (table 12-A).
  • State averaged freshman graduation rates for public school students: For the class of 2002-03, the average freshman graduation rate ranged from 59.6 percent in the District of Columbia to 87.0 percent in New Jersey (table 12-A). Fourteen states had rates of 80.0 percent or higher-Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Ten states and the District of Columbia had rates below 70.0 percent-Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Changes in rates from 2001-02 to 2002-03: Comparing the averaged freshman graduation rate among public school students in the graduating class of 2001-02 to that of 2002-03, the rate increased from 72.6 percent to 73.9 percent (tables 12-A and 12-B). Forty states experienced increases in the rate and 10 states and the District of Columbia experienced declines in the rate.


19 Similar data are available in the CCD district level nonfiscal files. These files provide more demographic information about students, but are incomplete. NCES is studying imputation strategies for the district-level data that may result in somewhat different state-level estimates than presented in this report.