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U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION TO CALCULATE NEW GRADUATION RATE: “Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate” Will Be Used to Compare State-Reported Rates Under NCLB

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"A more comprehensive and accurate assessment of how many students graduate from high school is sorely needed," Simon said.

Recognizing that several national organizations have been “justifiably clamoring for a more accurate, consistent, and transparent method of calculating high school graduation rates,” Deputy Secretary of Education Ray Simon announced on July 13 that the U.S. Department of Education would begin calculating an “Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate” for all states.

“A more comprehensive and accurate assessment of how many students graduate from high school is sorely needed,” Simon said. “We understand and appreciate that to accurately calculate such information, states will need much more comprehensive and sophisticated data collection systems than the vast majority currently have in place.”

As states work toward more comprehensive data collections systems, the U.S. Department of Education will publish states’ Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate alongside the graduation rates that are currently reported under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The new calculation represents the first step toward gathering and making available better graduation rate data and making high schools more accountable for dropouts.

According to Getting Honest About Grad Rates: How States Play the Numbers and Students Lose, a June 2005 report from the Education Trust, the data that most states submitted, if any, under NCLB were either incomplete or “dubiously high” when compared to the results of independent analyses of state graduation rates. In fact, fifteen states reported graduation rates that differed by more than 15 percent, according to an independent analysis by the Urban Institute’s Chris Swanson. In North Carolina, for example, the state-reported graduation rate of 97 percent was a full thirty-three percentage points higher than the 64 percent rate that Swanson calculated.

“By comparing this figure with the reported rate, we will have a truer picture of the national trend and can identify which states most need to improve their individual reporting,” said Simon. “More importantly, improving how we understand and report these more accurate graduation rates will allow us to better target resources and tailor instruction for kids who might otherwise be invisible until it’s too late.”

In calculating the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate, the department will use existing data submitted through the Common Core of Data, which is part of the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). The Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate is the number of high school graduates receiving a regular diploma in a given year divided by the average of the number of students enrolled in eighth grade five years earlier, ninth grade four years earlier, and tenth grade three years earlier. According to Simon, the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate has been shown to track very closely with true on-time graduation rates.

More information is available from the department’s press release, which is available athttp://www.ed.gov/news/pressreleases/2005/07/07132005.html.

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