New formula for reporting graduation rate set to begin

The U.S. Department of Education announced on Wednesday that states will begin reporting high school graduation rates for the 2010-2011 school year using a new, more rigorous, uniform four-year adjusted method, first developed by the nation's Governors in 2005. The new reporting guidelines will likely result in lower reported graduation rates than in previous years, according to a news release issued by the U.S. Department of Education.

"Through this uniform method, states are raising the bar on data standards, and simply being more honest," explained U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

Since data reporting requirements were implemented under No Child Left Behind, states have calculated graduation rates using varying methods, creating inconsistent data from one state to the next, according to Duncan. Under the newly implemented system, all states will be required to report the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma, divided by the number of students who entered high school four years earlier, while accounting for student transfers in and out of school. Alternatively, states may also opt to use an extended-year adjusted reporting method, allowing states, districts and schools to account for students who take longer than four years to complete high school.

"A common rate will help target support so more students graduate on-time by using more accurate data," Duncan said. "It will also encourage states to account for students who need more than four years to earn a diploma."

In addition, schools must maintain documentation for students who have transferred. States will continue to report graduation rates at the high school, district and state levels including rates for subgroups of students. The new measurement holds schools accountable for students who drop out and others who don't earn a regular high school diploma.