The U.S. Department of Education plans to release a standardized graduation rate for each state in order to provide a clearer understanding of how successful states are in ensuring that students complete high school. The Deputy Secretary of Education, Raymond J. Simon, shared this information with state policymakers during a conference held by the Education Commission of the States. The department will calculate each state’s graduation rate by dividing the number of high school graduates in a given year by the average number of students who entered 8th grade five years earlier, 9th grade four years earlier, and 10th grade three years earlier. This "averaged freshman graduation rate" will be published alongside the graduation rates reported by states under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Simon explained that this new calculation closely aligns with true on-time graduation rates, making it easier to understand, more accurate, and promoting transparency in the system.
Simon also noted that the new state calculations will be reported temporarily and will serve as a common measure to assess the success of states in ensuring high school completion. States have faced criticism in recent years for publishing graduation rates that are misleading and not comparable across different states. Many states base their graduation figures on the percentage of seniors who earn their diplomas by the end of the school year, which excludes students who drop out before reaching 12th grade. Simon acknowledged that many states lack the necessary data systems to provide more precise measures of their high school graduation rates. However, the federal government will be able to calculate the "averaged freshman graduation rate" using enrollment and other data already collected by the National Center for Education Statistics.
In other news, the National Governors Association revealed the first 10 states to receive grants of up to $2 million each under a program aimed at improving graduation and college-readiness rates. These grants, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and other philanthropies, will be utilized for various purposes, such as enhancing state academic standards, aligning curricula and assessments with college entrance requirements, raising awareness about the need for high school reform, expanding science, math, and technology education, and implementing data collection and analysis systems. The 10 states awarded the grants include Arkansas, Delaware, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Rhode Island, and Virginia.
Additionally, the Education Department has granted Washington state permission to factor in students who take more than four years to graduate when determining adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind law. Washington state will continue to publish a graduation rate based on the percentage of students who earn their diploma in four years but will now have the flexibility to include the extended time period for accountability purposes. The intention behind this change is to create incentives for dropouts to return to school. While other states have already received permission to include students with limited English proficiency or disabilities who take more than four years to graduate in their graduation rates, Washington state’s provision could potentially apply to a wider range of students.