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
, 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
and North Carolina
) require .1% improvement from the previous year; 2 states (Arizona
) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.