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

NCES 2011-012
December 2010

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 ungraded26 enrollments distributed proportional to reported enrollments by grade. Rates are presented for the 49 states and the District of Columbia that submitted data necessary to estimate AFGR for the 2007–08 school year; a national-level rate was calculated for reporting states based on data from the 49 states and the District of Columbia. Diploma count data for 2007–08 are missing for South Carolina.

  • National averaged freshman graduation rate for public school students: The AFGR among public school students in the United States for the class of 2007–08 was 74.9 percent (table 12).
  • State averaged freshman graduation rates for public school students: For the class of 2007–08, the AFGR ranged from 51.3 percent in Nevada to 89.6 percent in Wisconsin (figure 6 and table 12). Seventeen states had rates of 80.0 percent or higher—Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wisconsin. Eight states had rates below 70.0 percent—Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada, and New Mexico—as did the District of Columbia.
  • Changes in rates from 2006–07 to 2007–08: The AFGR among public school students in the graduating class of 2007–08 was higher than the rate for the class of 2006–07 (74.9 percent versus 73.9 percent) (table 13).27 A comparison of data from 2007–08 to data from the prior school year, 2006–07, shows a percentage point or greater increase in the AFGR for 16 states and the District of Columbia. The AFGR decreased by a percentage point or more for six states during that same time period.


26 Ungraded students are those who are assigned to a class or program that does not have standard grade designations.
27 South Carolina did not report diploma information for 2007–08. Data were available to estimate the number of first-time freshmen in 2004–05 (the graduating class of 2007–08). If the AFGR for 2006–07 in South Carolina were applied to the estimate of first-time freshmen in 2004–05, and the freshmen count and resulting diploma count added to national totals, the AFGR for the United States would have been 74.7 percent in 2007–08.