US graduation rates were higher for the Class of 2013 than they have ever been, according to ASCD, citing data from the National Center for Education Statistics. But only since the 2010-11 school year has the method of determining the graduation rate been consistent from state to state.
Prior to the 2010-11 school year, national data relied on the averaged freshman graduation rate, which made long-term and state-to-state comparisons difficult. The rate used now, known as the adjusted cohort graduation rate, determines the percent of students who enter ninth grade and receive a regular diploma four years later, accounting for transfers.
Other measures of the graduation rate varied widely, with some states simply dividing the number of high school graduates by the number of 12th graders who enrolled at the beginning of that school year. This method ignored student who had dropped out prior to their senior year and artificially inflated the graduation rate for those states.
The other line shown in the graph, the averaged freshman graduation rate, has a longer history than the ACGR but is close to the ACGR if about the same number of students transfer in as transfer out. Here’s how the ACGR is calculated:
C is the adjusted cohort graduation rate, and D represents the number of cohort members who earned a regular high school diploma by the end of the 2012-13 school year.
The “cohort” is found in the denominator, defined as the number of first-time ninth graders in the 2009-10 school year, adjusted for any additions or subtractions of students from that cohort over the four academic years prior to 2013: add students who transfer into the cohort after ninth grade (ti4), then subtract any students who transfer out (to4), emigrate to another country (e4), or die (d4) during the 2009-10, 2010-11, 2011-12, or 2012-13 school year.
The nation’s ACGR was 81.4 percent as of the 2012-13 school year, but gaps still exist between subgroups: the ACGR for African-Americans in Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New York, Ohio, and Wisonsin was more than 20 percentage points lower than for Whites.
In California, the Los Angeles Unified School District, the nation’s second-largest district, eased the high school graduation requirements somewhat this past year, no longer requiring a C grade or better in college prep classes, NPR reported.
The move came in response not to lower graduation rates but to concerns that students in Los Angeles were being held to a higher standard than those in neighboring districts. “I am worried we are setting students up for failure because this district hasn’t gotten its act together,” LAUSD board member Tamar Galatzan was quoted as saying.