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Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 2007

NCES 2009-064
September 2009

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 1 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 proportional to reported enrollments by grade. Rates are presented for the 48 states that submitted data necessary to estimate AFGR for the 2005–06 school year; a national-level rate was calculated based on data from the reporting states. The District of Columbia did not meet reporting requirements, and Pennsylvania and South Carolina did not report high school graduation data.

  • National averaged freshman graduation rate for public school students: The AFGR among public school students in the United States for the class of 2005–06 was 73.2 percent (table 12).
  • State averaged freshman graduation rates for public school students: For the class of 2005–06, the AFGR ranged from 55.8 percent in Nevada to 87.5 percent in Wisconsin (figure 6 and table 12). Fourteen states had rates of 80.0 percent or higher—Arkansas, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Ten states had rates below 70.0 percent—Alabama, Alaska, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, New Mexico, and New York.
  • Changes in rates from 2004–05 to 2005–06: The AFGR among public school students in the graduating class of 2005–06 was lower than the rate for the class of 2004–05 (73.2 percent versus 74.7 percent) (table 13). Twenty-three states had higher AFGRs in 2005– 06 compared with 2004–05, and 23 states had lower rates. Connecticut’s and Nevada’s rates remained the same. Pennsylvania’s, and South Carolina’s data were not available for 2005–06, and the District of Columbia’s 2005–06 data did not meet reporting standards. The lack of data from these two states and the District of Columbia that year is an important consideration when comparing the 2004–05 and 2005–06 national rates. Removing these states from the 2004–05 national counts results in a national rate of 74.6 percent—higher than the 2005–06 rate that excludes these states. Imputing the missing 2005–06 data for the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina based on their 2004–05 rates results in a national estimate of 73.4 percent, which is still lower than the 2004–05 rate.19


19 Prorating was calculated by applying the 2004–05 AFGRs for the District of Columbia, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina to the counts of incoming freshmen in these two states and the District of Columbia in 2002–03 (the expected graduating class of 2005–06).