States Work Together to Make Graduation Data More Accurate

The U.S. Department of Education has released its four-year high school graduation rates for the 2010-11 school year but this year something is different: this is the first time that all states have agreed to use a common, rigorous measure. Previously, states used different methods to calculate graduation rates, which meant comparing rates across states wasn’t very useful. The newly agreed upon common measure will allow more reliable comparisons across states, promote accountability and provide the data needed to develop more effective strategies to increase graduation rates.

"By using this new measure, states will be more honest in holding schools accountable and ensuring that students succeed," said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. "Ultimately, these data will help states target support to ensure more students graduate on time, college and career ready."

The new formula for calculating graduation rates is simple: it is the percentage of first-time ninth graders who earn a high school diploma within four years (called a cohort measure). Finding a measure that all states could agree upon wasn’t an easy task. But states pulled together and back in 2005, all 50 state governors signed an interstate compact agreeing to adopt and implement the new formula by 2012.

Iowa stood out with the highest graduation rate at 88 percent in 2010-11 followed by Wisconsin and Vermont at 87 percent. Indiana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Tennessee and Texas all tied for fourth with an 86 percent graduation rate.

Graduation Rates for the 2010-11 School Year

Source: Department of Education