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Trends in High School Dropout and Completion Rates in the United States: 1972–2008

NCES 2011-012
December 2010

State Event Dropout Rates for Public High School Students

State-level event dropout rates for public high school students are calculated using data from 1993 through 2008 from the CCD. The rates reported in this publication reflect the percentage of public school students who were enrolled in grades 9–12 at some point during the 2007–08 school year but were not enrolled in school in October 2008 and had not earned a high school diploma or completed a state- or district-approved education program.16 Some state or district education programs include special education programs and district- or state-sponsored GED programs. State event dropout rates are useful for evaluating the performance of public high school systems in reporting states. They do not include information about individuals outside the public school system. Rates are presented for the District of Columbia and 49 states that submitted data that could be reported for the 2007–08 school year; a “reporting states” rate was calculated based on data from the reporting states (table 5). Dropout counts from Vermont were suppressed due to a high frequency of missing data.

  • State event dropout rates for 9th- through 12th-grade public high school students: The 2007–08 CCD event dropout rates ranged from 1.7 percent in Indiana and New Jersey to 7.5 percent in Louisiana (table 5). In all, event dropout rates for public school students in grades 9–12 were lower than 3 percent in fifteen states: Indiana and New Jersey, 1.7 percent; Idaho, 2.0 percent; Alabama, 2.2 percent; South Dakota and Wisconsin, 2.3 percent; North Dakota, 2.4 percent; Kansas and Nebraska, 2.5 percent; Pennsylvania, 2.6 percent; Virginia, 2.7 percent; Connecticut, Kentucky, and Minnesota, 2.8 percent; and Iowa, 2.9 percent. Six states had event dropout rates of 6 percent or more: Delaware, 6.0 percent; Michigan, 6.2 percent; Colorado, 6.4 percent; Arizona, 6.7 percent; Alaska, 7.3 percent; and Louisiana, 7.5 percent.
  • Combining data from the 49 reporting states and the District of Columbia, approximately 613,000 public school students dropped out of grade 9–12 during the 2007–08 school year (data not shown in tables). This translates into an event dropout rate of 4.1 percent.17


16 Some states report using an alternative 1-year period from one July to the next. Rates for those states are presented because event dropout rates based on the July-to-July calendar are comparable to those calculated using an October-to-October calendar (Winglee et al. 2000).
17 The number of event dropouts based on CCD data is significantly higher than the number of event dropouts based on CPS data, after restricting CCD counts to grades 10–12 to align with grade-ranges used in CPS estimates. This may be due in part to how the different sources of data account for alternative credentials like the GED. Students earning GEDs through public school systems are generally not counted as dropouts in the CCD, while students who leave the public school system are considered dropouts. Irrespective of how a GED is obtained, CPS data do not count them as dropouts. When this reporting difference is accounted for, estimates from both sources are not detectably different.