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State Graduation Rate Goals for High School Accountability

Introduction

Under the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB), all elementary, middle and high schools receiving Title I funds are required to make adequate yearly progress (AYP) or face increasingly rigorous sanctions for each year that a school remains in need of improvement. In addition to test scores in English language arts, math and, effective with the 2007-2008 year science, high schools are required to use graduation rates as the additional indicator in demonstrating adequate yearly progress. (Meeting a graduation rate target cannot help a school with low test scores make AYP but missing the graduation rate target can keep a school from making AYP.) Each state is mandated to set its own graduation rate target and the method it will use to calculate the state graduation rate, both of which must be approved by the U.S. Department of Education.

Criteria for state definition of graduation rate:

To be approved by the U.S. Department of Education, each state's graduation rate definition and calculation method had to meet the following criteria:

--Calculate the percentage of students, measured from the beginning of the school year, who graduate from public high school with a regular diploma (not including a GED or any other diploma not fully aligned with the state’s academic standards) in the standard number of years; or,
--Use another more accurate definition that has been approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education; and
--Must avoid counting a dropout as a transfer.

In addition, graduation rate is included (in the aggregate) for AYP, and disaggregated (as necessary) for use when applying the exception clause to make AYP.

Graduation rate targets:

Baseline targets and growth targets: Thirty-five states set graduation rate targets for 2002-2003 that do not change through the 2013-2014 school year, when all schools are expected to make AYP. By contrast, 13 states and the District of Columbia set goals that require schools to meet increasingly higher targets until 2013-2014. Three additional states, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee, maintain relatively stable goals until 2013-2014, in which Iowa's target will increase from the statewide average to 95%, Kansas' target will rise from 75% to 95% and Tennessee's will grow from 90% to 100%.

2005-2006 state graduation rate goals vary considerably, from 50% in Nevada to 95% in Indiana. However, due to the differences in how states calculate graduation rates, it is not possible to make simple comparisons of graduation rate goals from one state to the next. For example, while both Hawaii and Vermont have a 75% graduation rate target for the 2005-2006 school year, Vermont's graduation rate is calculated using a 2-year average, while Hawaii's uses one year of school data. Vermont uses a five-year departure classification definition which calculates the number of dropouts and transfers in over a five-year period, while Hawaii uses a 4-year cohort definition, which essentially calculates the number of high school graduates minus the number of ninth-graders four years earlier--resulting in potentially very different graduation rate figures for each state.

"Improvement" or "maintainance" as a proxy for meeting graduation rate targets: ECS has identified 32 states that allow high schools that have not met the state's graduation rate target to still make AYP if they demonstrate progress--generally described as improvement from the previous year's graduation rate. Twenty-five of these 32 states allow any progress to be made to make AYP; three states (Arkansas, Maryland and North Carolina) require .1% improvement from the previous year; 2 states (Arizona and Florida) require 1% growth over the prior year's graduation rate; and Washington requires high schools not meeting the state target to demonstrate a 2% increase over the previous year. Three states--Delaware, New Mexico and South Carolina--allow a high school to make AYP if the school's graduation rate is below the state target but equal to the school's graduation rate in the previous school year. Missouri requires high schools to make progress toward an 85% graduation rate, but upon attaining it, allows schools to make AYP by maintaining this rate.

Multi-year averages: Six states allow high schools to make adequate yearly progress based on multi-year averages. California permits high schools to reach graduation rate targets by improving their rate by 0.2% over a two-year average. Oregon allows schools to make AYP using a two-year average, whereas in Vermont graduation rates are calculated only using a two-year average. New Mexico and South Carolina allow for a three-year average (current year and two previous years), while Tennessee allows high schools to meet the 90% graduation rate target using the most recent two years' data or a three-year rolling average.

States without uniform statewide target: A handful of states do not set a uniform statewide target from year to year. Arkansas' graduation rate target is defined as one standard deviation below the mean (86.74167%). Florida requires high schools to make 1% improvement over the previous year without setting a minimum statewide numerical target. Iowa annually sets its graduation target as the average of the current school year's graduation rate. Missouri requires schools to make improvement until they reach an 85% graduation rate, at which point schools must maintain or exceed the 85% graduation rate. New Jersey's target is the current state average, provided this average does not dip below 90%.

Methods of calculating graduation rates:

A description of various methods of calculating graduation rates follows the table below.

These data were collected in February-March 2006 from U.S. Department of Education approved state accountability workbooks, decision letters documenting changes to state accountability workbooks, and, where necessary, communications with state education agency staff.

This database was compiled by Jennifer Dounay, project manager, ECS High School Policy Center. For questions, additions or corrections: 303.299.3689 or jdounay@ecs.org.

Graduation rate target for 2005-2006 Using NCES 4-year cohort definition State has incremental goals towards 2014 target
Alabama 90%
or improvement
No

Departure classification definition
No
Alaska 55.58% No

Departure classification definition
No
American Samoa Unable to locate Unable to locate Unable to locate
Arizona 71%
or 1% improvement over previous year
Yes No
Arkansas One standard deviation or less below the mean (86.74167)
or improvement from previous year
No

Other definition (not departure or cohort)
No
California Meet at least one:
  1. Increase of .1% in the graduation rate, or
  2. Increase of .2% average 2-year rate, or
  3. 82.8% and increases at a rate similar to the schedule of annual measurable objectives in English language arts and mathematics.
No

Departure classification definition
No
Colorado 55.3% Yes No
Connecticut 70%
or annual improvement
No

Departure classification definition
No
Delaware 78%
School must (1) meet state target for that year, (2) maintain its graduation rate, or (3) show improvement from previous year
No

Departure classification definition
Yes:
2003-04: 75%
2004-05: 76.5%
2005-06: 78%
2006-07: 79.5%
2007-08: 81%
2008-09: 82.5%
2009-10: 84%
2010-11: 85.5%
2011-12: 87%
2012-13: 88.5%
2013-14: 90%
District of Columbia 76% No

Departure classification definition
Yes:
2004-2005: 73%
2005-2006: 76%
2007-2007: 79%
2007-2008: 82%
2014: 100%
Florida 1% improvement over previous year Yes No
Georgia 60%
or improvement over previous year
No

Departure classification definition
No
Hawaii 75% Yes Yes:
2001-2002 through 2003-2004: 70%
2004-2005 through 2006-2007: 75%
2006-2007 through 2009-2010: 80%
2010-2011 through 2012-2013: 85%
2013-2014: 90%
Idaho 90%
or improvement
No

Departure classification definition
No
Illinois 69% Yes Yes:
2002-2003: 65%
2003-2004: 66%
2004-2005: 67%
2005-2006: 69%
2006-2007: 72%
2007-2008: 75%
2008-2009: 78%
2009-2010: 80%
2010-2011: 82%
2011-2012: 84%
2012-2013 and 2013-2014: 85%
Indiana 95% No

Other (not 4-year cohort or departure classification definition)
No
Iowa State will determine 2005-2006 target in March 2006
Annually calculated target is average of current school year's statewide rate.
Goal for 2013-2014 is 95%.
No

Departure classification definition

Notes/Citation: 2006 legislation requires districts and accredited nonpublic schools to report graduation rates using the 4-year cohort method encouraged by the National Governors Association. Legislation does not indicate date by which this method must be adopted.
No

But ultimate goal is 95% in 2013-2014.
Kansas 75%
or improvement
Yes No

But ultimate goal is 95% in 2013-2014.
Kentucky 80% No

Departure classification definition
Yes:
2001-2002: 71%
2002-2003: 73.25%
2003-2004: 75.50%
2004-2005: 77.75%
2005-2006: 80.00%
2006-2007: 82.25%
2007-2008: 84.50%
2008-2009: 86.75%
2009-2010: 89.00%
2010-2011: 91.25%
2011-2012: 93.50%
2012-2013: 95.75%
2013-2014: 98.00%
Louisiana 90% (Non-dropout rate) No

"Other" definition (dropout rate)
No
Maine 63% No

Departure classification definition
Yes:
2001-2002 and 2002-2003: 60%
2003-2004 and 2004-2005: 62%
2005-2006: 63%
2006-2007: 64%
2007-2008: 65%
2008-2009: 66%
2009-2010: 67%
2010-2011: 69%
2011-2012: 71%
2012-2013: 73%
2013-2014: 75%
Maryland 83.24%
or .1% improvement over previous year
No

Departure classification definition
Notes/Citation: 2006 legislation requires the state to implement the NCES 4-year cohort definition by October 2011.
Yes:
2002-2003: 81%
2004-2005 and 2005-2006: 83.24%
2007-2008: 85.5%
2010-2011: 87.75%
2013-2014: 90%
Massachusetts No current target but plans to set.

2006-2007 graduation data will determine 2007 AYP

Interim indicator is 70% grade 12 “competency determination” rate, i.e., number of 12th-graders who graduate from high school having passed the ELA and math MCAS assessments.
No

Methodology has not been finalized. State anticipates reporting on such methodology following the 2006 school year when five complete years of student-level data will be available.
Not at this time
Michigan 85% Yes

4-year cohort will first be used in 2006. Prior to 2006, departure classification definition used.
Yes:
2002-03 through 2004-2005: 80%
2005-06 through 2007-2008: 85%
2008-09 through 2013-2014: 90%
Minnesota 80%
or improvement
No

Departure classification definition
No
Mississippi 72%
or an increase from prior year
Yes No
Missouri Annual improvement until 85%, and then maintain at 85% or better. No

Departure classification definition
No
Montana 80%
or improvement toward 80% from previous year
No

Departure classification definition
No
Nebraska 83.97%
or improvement from previous year
No

Departure classification definition
No
Nevada 50%
or improvement over previous year
No

Departure classification definition
No
New Hampshire Not available at this time No

"Other" rate. Currently reports dropout instead of graduation, but intends to transition to a graduation rate definition consistent with NCLB requirements.
Yes:
2007: 75.2%
2008-2010: 79.2%
2011: 83.1%
2012: 87%
2013: 90.9%
2014: 95%
New Jersey 90% or state average if higher than 90%
or improvement from previous year
No

Departure classification definition
No
New Mexico One of these three targets:

(1) 90% graduation rate or
(2) meeting or exceeding the previous year’s rate or
(3) equal to or exceeding 3-year average.
Yes

First 4-year cohort data available at end of 2006-2007 school year.
No
New York 55% Yes

First 4-year cohort data available at end of 2006-2007 school year.
No
North Carolina 90%
or .1% improvement from previous year
No

"Other" method: elapsed time between 8th grade end-of-grade (EOG) tests and diploma receipt, with schools manually recording data for students who did not take 8th grade EOG (transfers from out of state and from private schools).
No
North Dakota 89.9% through 2004-2005, then TBD No

Departure classification definition
2001-02 through 2004-2005: 89.9%
2005-2006 through 2013-2014: TBD

Notes/Citation: Beginning 2005, target graduation rate recalculated using the 20% ranking rule for graduation rates.
Ohio 73.6%
or improvement over previous year
No

Departure classification definition
Yes.

At the end of school years 2010-11 and 2012-13 will be raised by one-third of the gap between the initial threshold rate and 100%. For example, if the initial threshold graduation rate is 70 percent, then the threshold will become 80 percent at the end of 2010-11 and 90 percent at the end of 2012-13.
Oklahoma 68.8% or improvement from previous year

School completion component score that is 1.5 standard deviations below the mean or improvement over previous year.
No

Departure classification definition
No
Oregon 68.1%
or two-year weighted average
No

Departure classification definition
No
Pennsylvania 80%
or improvement from previous year
No

Departure classification definition
No
Puerto Rico Unable to locate No

Departure classification definition
Unable to locate
Rhode Island 75.3% No

Departure classification definition
Yes:
2002-2003 and 2003-2004: 71.4%
2004-2005 through 2006-2007: 75.3%
2007-2008 through 2009-2010: 79.2%
2010-2011: 83.1%
2011-2012: 87%
2012-2013: 90.9%
2013-2014: 95%

Notes/Citation: New baseline will be set for the graduating class of 2007 based on accumulated data from the student roster tracking method. The graduation rate target for 2013-14 will continue to be 95%.
South Carolina 88.3%
or
(2) equals or exceeds previous year's graduation rate, or
(3) 3-year average equals or exceeds previous year's rate
Yes No
South Dakota 80%
or improvement over previous year
(Target reduced from 90% to 80% in August 5, 2005 decision letter.)
No

Departure classification definition
No
Tennessee 90%
or improvement based on either:
(1) current year,
(2) the most recent two years’ worth of data, or
(3) a three-year rolling average.

Beginning in 2006, the Department will apply previous-year graduation rates to AYP. In the transition year between using current-year and previous-year graduation rates, the Department will use the event dropout rate for AYP. State board at June 20, 2005 meeting approved a event dropout rate for AYP purposes of 5%.
No

Departure classification definition
Yes:
2002-2003 through 2012-2013: 90%
2013-2014: 100%
Texas 70%
or improvement
Yes No
Utah 85.7%
or improvement from previous year

Notes/Citation: 93% attendance rate (or improvement) used as a proxy for graduation rate until 2007.
No

Departure classification definition
No
Vermont 75% based on two-year average No

5-year departure classification definition
No
Virgin Islands Unable to locate Unable to locate Unable to locate
Virginia 57% No

Departure classification definition
Yes:
2001-2002 through 2005-2006: 57%
2006-2007 to 2013-2014: TBD
Interim goal is to increase graduation rate 2% each year from FY 2005 through FY 2008.
Washington 67%
or 2% improvement over previous year

Notes/Citation: High schools that do not serve grade 12 will have their school-wide annual dropout rate as the other indicator. Dropout rate must be 7% or less or below the previous year’s rate.
Yes Yes:
2001-2002 through 2004-2005: 66%
2005-2006: 67%
2006-2007: 68%
2007-2008: 69%
2008-2009: 70%
2009-2010: 73%
2010-2011: 76%
2011-2012: 79%
2012-2013: 82%
2013-2014: 85%
West Virginia 80%
or improvement from previous year
No

Departure classification definition
No
Wisconsin 90% of the statewide average for 2001-02 (81.75%)
or progress from previous year

Notes/Citation: In 2001-02 the statewide average graduation rate was 90.83%.
No

Departure classification definition
No
Wyoming 80%
or improvement from previous year
No

Departure classification definition
No

Methods of calculating graduation rates:

For purposes of this report, three methods of calculating graduation rates are identified--a four-year cohort, a departure classification definition and "other" methods, generally unique to the state adopting them.

Four-year cohort: This method compares the number of graduating 12th-graders with the number of 9th graders four years earlier, factoring in students who left the cohort by transfering into or out of the system. According to the 2004 National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) report, National Institute of Statistical Sciences/Education Statistics Services Institute Task Force on Graduation, Completion, and Dropout Indicators, the four-year cohort is capable of calculating a more accurate graduation rate than other methods. However, such a graduation rate calculation requires a longitudinal data system that provides each student with a unique student identifier to track each student's progress through the system over time. Relatively few states currently have such data systems (see the ECS database on state data systems for more state-specific information).

As of the 2005-2006 school year, 11 states are using the cohort definition, and two additional states--New Mexico and New York--will have the first 4-year cohort data at the end of the 2006-2007 school year. According to the September 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, No Child Left Behind Act: Education Could Do More to Help States Better Define Graduation Rates and Improve Knowledge about Intervention Strategies, an additional 18 states plan to use the cohort definition by the 2007-2008 school year. Furthermore, all 50 states have signed on to a compact put forward by the National Governors Association in July 2005 that commits each state to adopting a 4-year cohort graduation rate. (A full report on the NGA's task force on state high school graduation data is also available.)

Departure classification definition: This method, as defined in the September 2005 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, No Child Left Behind Act: Education Could Do More to Help States Better Define Graduation Rates and Improve Knowledge about Intervention Strategies, is used in 31 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico. As succinctly defined in the GAO report, "Essentially, this definition looks back from a 12th grade class at those who (1) graduated (regardless of when they started high school), (2) dropped out in 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th grades (including those who enrolled in GED programs) and (3) did not graduate, but received some form of alternative completion certificate." This definition makes it possible to determine a graduation rate without a data system tracking individual students through the four years of high school.

"Other" definitions: Five states have graduation rate definitions that do not fit into the above categories. The table above provides a brief definition of each of these definitions.

Special populations and alternative schools: Some states' approved accountability workbooks and decision letters refer to the fact that students with disabilities, English language learners, and, in the case of Washington State, migrant students, may require more than 4 years to complete a high school diploma. Generally speaking, the U.S. Department of Education has granted states requesting additional time for such students to allow schools and IEP teams to provide additional time on a case-by-case basis. Relevant language from approved accountability workbooks and decision letters has been collected in a separate ECS document. In addition, a handful of states have received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to modify graduation rate criteria for students in alternative school settings or high schools that do not include grade 12. These provisions are listed in the "Notes" section following the table below.

Notes:

California: For high schools without a graduation rate (e.g., only grades 9 and 10) or high schools with a primary mission of returning students to a regular classroom environment in a comprehensive high school: • For high schools administered by a district, the department of education will assign them the district graduation rate. • For direct-funded charter high schools, the department will assign the graduation rate of the charter authorizer, unless the charter authorizer does not have a graduation rate, in which case the countywide graduation rate of the county in which the school is located will be assigned. • For high schools administered by county offices of education, the department will assign the countywide graduation rate.

Georgia: Once new student information system is in place, state will focus on longitudinal tracking of individual students and will no longer set triennial goals. (per July 1, 2005 decision letter)

Kentucky: Allows students completing high school in four or less years to obtain a standard diploma as graduates. (February 2, 2004 decision letter)

Maine: An individual student will be counted as a dropout only once within five years of enrolling in ninth grade in a specific school. (August 31, 2004 decision letter)

Maryland: 2006 H.B. 71 (MD. CODE ANN., EDUC. § 7-203.2) authorizes the state to grant additional time to graduation for students with disabilities, limited English proficient students, and "other students when educationally appropriate based on an individualized review of a student's pathway to graduation."

Minnesota: Minnesota will work towards a system that is able to identify the number of years that students have been in high school and adjust the graduation rate accordingly. (Consolidated State Application Accountability Workbook, updated July 20, 2005)

New York: An exception to the 4-year cohort graduation rate determination will be made for high schools where a majority of students participate in a State-approved five-year program that results in the receipt of certification in a career or technology field or in a program that results in the awarding of an Associates degree in addition to a high school diploma. For those schools, the graduation rate will be the percentage of those students defined in Conditions 1 and 2 who earned a regular high school diploma no later than the end of year 5.

North Dakota: North Dakota will apply a one-year lag to the additional indicators for the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years for attendance, and the 2004-05 and 2005-06 school years for graduation rate. No schools or districts will be held in double jeopardy. If they miss the attendance target in 2003-04, they will not be considered as missing AYP in 2004-05 because doing so would put them in school improvement based on one year's data. (August 10, 2005 decision letter)

Washington: To encourage schools to serve students who remain in school beyond 4 years, a separate graduation rate is calculated that includes students who graduate in more than 4 years, and this rate may be used for AYP purposes. Both the on-time and extended graduation rates will be reported. (September 1, 2005 decision letter). State will also report and use for accountability purposes dropout rates for high schools (those without a 12th grade) without the capability to graduate students.

Wyoming: Will review the graduation rate for very small high schools. Small schools with fewer than thirty exiters will be examined individually to ensure a valid decision. This examination will include an examination of past trend data utilizing a trend line of three years data to ensure positive progress is being demonstrated in graduation rate over time. (July 1, 2004 decision letter)


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