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Dropout Rates in the United States: 2005
NCES 2007-059
June 2007

Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates for Public School Students

The averaged freshman graduation rate (AFGR) provides an estimate of the percentage of public high school students who graduate on time—that is, 4 years after starting ninth 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. 2006a, 2006b). AFGR estimates are based on the Common Core of Data (CCD) State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education, with ungraded enrollments distributed proportionally to reported enrollments by grade. AFGR estimates are presented for 48 states and the District of Columbia.20

  • National averaged freshman graduation rate for public school students: The AFGR among public school students in the United States for the class of 2003–04 was 75.021 percent (table 12).
  • State averaged freshman graduation rates for public school students: For the class of 2003–04, the AFGR ranged from 57.4 percent in Nevada to 87.6 percent in Nebraska (figure 4 and table 12). Fifteen states had rates of 80.0 percent or higher—Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, and Vermont. Eleven states and the District of Columbia had rates below 70.0 percent—Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico, Nevada, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Changes in rates from 2001–02 to 2003–04: Comparing the AFGR among public school students in the graduating class of 2001–02 to that of 2003–04, the rate increased from 72.6 percent to an adjusted 74.322 percent (table 13). Of the states that reported graduation information, 43 states and the District of Columbia experienced increases in the rate and 6 states experienced declines in the rate.

20 New York and Wisconsin are missing diploma count data in 2003–04, and therefore averaged freshman graduation rates could not be computed for those states that year.
21 This national rate does not include data from two states missing diploma counts: New York and Wisconsin.
22 For this comparison, the 2003–04 adjusted national rate of 74.3 is used. The adjusted rate was calculated using the 2002–03 rates for New York and Wisconsin, two states with missing diploma counts data in 2003–04.