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Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2006

NCES 2008-053
September 2008

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 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 retention rates in the 9th grade. Although not as accurate as an on-time graduation rate computed from a cohort of students using individual 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 CCD "State Nonfiscal Survey of Public Elementary/Secondary Education", with ungraded enrollments distributed proportionally to reported enrollments by grade. AFGR estimates are presented for the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

  • National averaged freshman graduation rate for public school students: The AFGR among public school students in the United States for the class of 2004–05 was 74.7 percent (table 12).
  • State averaged freshman graduation rates for public school students: For the class of 2004–05, the AFGR ranged from 55.8 percent in Nevada to 87.8 percent in Nebraska (figure 4 and table 12). Seventeen states had rates of 80.0 percent or higher—Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Eleven states and the District of Columbia had rates below 70.0 percent—Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
  • Changes in rates from 2003–04 to 2004–05: The AFGR among public school students in the graduating class of 2004–05 was lower than the rate for the class of 2003–04 (74.7 percent versus 75.0 percent) (table 13). Twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia had higher AFGR in 2004–05 compared with 2003–04, and 18 states had lower rates. Oregon's rate remained the same and New York's and Wisconsin's data were not available for 2003–04. The lack of data from these two states that year is an important consideration when comparing the 2003–04 and 2004–05 national rates. Removing these states from the 2004–05 national counts results in a national rate of 75.1 percent—marginally higher than the 2003–04 rate that excludes these states. Imputing the missing 2003–04 data for New York and Wisconsin based on their 2002–03 rates results in a national estimate of 74.3 percent, which is lower than the 2004–05 rate that includes these two states.27


27 Prorating was calculated by applying the 2002–03 AFGRs for New York and Wisconsin to the counts of incoming freshmen in these two states in 2000–01 (the expected graduating class of 2003–04).