Federal High School Graduation Rate Policies and the Impact on States
For too long, inaccurate data, misleading official graduation and dropout calculations, and inadequate accountability systems at the state and federal levels have obscured low graduation rates. In October 2008, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) released regulations that change requirements for states’ calculations, reporting, and accountability systems for graduation rates under the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). Although these regulations, if properly implemented, offer hope for significant improvement, some of their provisions—particularly around accountability goals for increasing graduation rates—leave room for considerable variation across states that could undermine the regulations’ intention to improve accountability for graduation rates. The regulations address three important components of graduation rate policy: graduation rate definitions, graduation rate accountability, and data and data systems.
The state briefs below outline the current high school graduation policies in that particular state and summarize the changes the new regulations would make in these three policy areas. They also highlight the policy concerns and hurdles that are unique to that state and must still be addressed. To access the brief for a particular state, click on it in the list below.
State Specific Information
To learn more about these issues, visit this page to see all of the Alliance’s publications related to Graduation Rates, including:
- Every Student Counts: The Role of Federal Policy in Improving Graduation Rate Accountability (March 2009) provides background information on the movement toward better data collection, common graduation rate calculations, and meaningful accountability for raising graduation rates and describes in detail the culminating federal policy changes made by the regulations, which reflect both the significant progress that has been made and the hurdles that remain.
- Understanding High School Graduation Rates (Updated July 2009) provides, nationally and for each state, the latest graduation rate statistics, demonstrates graduation gaps between demographic groups, illustrates the discrepancies in graduation rates reported by government and independent sources, and examines the economic costs of dropouts to individuals and society.
- Every Student Counts: The Case for Graduation Rate Accountability (July 2008) a policy brief that describes the flaws in current federal and state graduation rates policies.
- Who’s Counted? Who’s Counting? Understanding High School Graduation Rates (June 2006) a report that explains the reasons why so many different graduation rate formulas and statistics exist, addresses why states report them differently, discusses the limitations and benefits of each method, and – most importantly – defines the policy changes needed to assure that educators, school officials, parents, and the public receive timely and accurate information about how many students are actually graduating so that they can assess their schools’ current effectiveness and make improvements.