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View Research by Author - Christopher B. Swanson


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Who Graduates in the South? (Policy Briefs)
Christopher B. Swanson

This new analysis of high school graduation rates in the South calculates graduation rates using the Urban Institute's widely used Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI). Results show that the region's overall graduation rate of 65 percent falls below the national average and that large disparities exist among racial-ethnic groups. This graduation gap has narrowed slightly during the past several years. Detailed results for five Southern states (FL, GA, LA, MS, NC) and a special analysis of the link between graduation rates and levels of racial and socioeconomic segregation are also included.

Posted to Web: June 01, 2005Publication Date: June 01, 2005

Who Graduates in California? (Policy Briefs)
Christopher B. Swanson

This new analysis of high school graduation rates for California is based on the Urban Institute's widely used Cumulative Promotion Index. Although the state's overall graduation rate of 71 percent falls near the national average, large disparities exist among different racial and ethnic groups. This graduation gap has narrowed slightly over the past several years. Besides detailed statewide statistics, the bulletin includes results for the state's 10 largest districts.

Posted to Web: March 24, 2005Publication Date: March 24, 2005

High School Graduation, Completion, and Dropout (GCD) Indicators: A Primer and Catalog (Research Report)
Christopher B. Swanson

This report explores the measurement of high school graduation, completion, and dropout (GCD) rates. First we outline a basic framework for conceptualizing high school completion processes and identifying challenges associated with empirically measuring GCD rates. We then use this framework to construct a catalog of over 70 distinct GCD indicators used by federal and state agencies. The methodological topics addressed here have traditionally been examined by researchers. However, educational accountability systems are now attaching higher stakes to high school graduation rates. This report aims to provide a broader set of stakeholders—policymakers, educators, the public at large—with a technically-assessable introduction to this important issue.

Posted to Web: December 09, 2004Publication Date: December 09, 2004

Graduation Rates: Real Kids, Real Numbers (Research Report)
Christopher B. Swanson

Controversies over graduation rates and No Child Left Behind have raged in research, media and political circles for almost a year. All too often, though, when complex issues of social and economic importance collide with policy and politics, heat is generated but little light. As a result, it may be difficult for local educators to parse the rhetoric from the reality and to figure out what this all means for their schools and students. This article attempts to provide some practical insight into NCLB and its implications for graduation rates and to highlight some issues of particular relevance to school administrators.

Posted to Web: December 01, 2004Publication Date: December 01, 2004

The Real Truth about Low Graduation Rates, An Evidence-Based Commentary (Research Report)
Christopher B. Swanson

A growing body of research has consistently pointed towards the uncomfortable fact the nation is facing a crisis in high school completion. This paper builds on a series of recent Urban Institute reports and analyses that have examined high graduation rates in the United States and the new accountability required over graduation by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. In this commentary, the author attempts to clarify these issues and offer a foundation upon which to ground on-going policy debates, future research into the graduation and dropout phenomena, and the shape of the next generation of educational accountability systems.

Posted to Web: August 31, 2004Publication Date: August 31, 2004

The New Math on Graduation Rates (Opinion)
Christopher B. Swanson

[Education Week] The national graduation rate is not the widely broadcast 85 percent. This Education Week commentary corrects the math and reveals the correct figure as much closer to 68 percent. More alarming, minorities nationwide have little more than a 50-50 chance of earning a diploma. We have the No Child Left Behind Act to thank for the unpleasant discovery of low graduation rates. Prospect for the future, however, may not be altogether bleak. Despite a lax regulatory stance now, no legal impediments bar the Department of Education from getting tougher in the future.

Posted to Web: July 28, 2004Publication Date: July 28, 2004

Projections of 2003-04 High School Graduates: Supplemental Analyses based on findings from <i>Who Graduates? Who Doesn't?</i> (Research Report)
Christopher B. Swanson

This report presents a supplemental analysis based on the findings of a recent Urban Institute study, Who Graduates? Who Doesn't? The current analysis uses our earlier findings on graduation rates to project the number of students we expect to graduate from public high schools at the end of the current school year (2003-04). Projected numbers of graduates and non-graduates are presented for the nation as a whole, the fifty states, and District of Columbia. In addition to projections for all students, results are also broken down by race-ethnicity, gender, and district characteristics (poverty level, minority enrollment, and locale).

Posted to Web: June 09, 2004Publication Date: June 09, 2004

Who Graduates? Who Doesn't?: A Statistical Portrait of Public High School Graduation, Class of 2001 (Research Report)
Christopher B. Swanson

The No Child Left Behind Act has generated debate over issues including graduation levels; the ways states are implementing graduation rate accountability required under the law; and the best methods for measuring graduation rates. This study provides the most extensive set of systematic empirical findings to date on U.S. public school graduation rates. The findings include detailed descriptive statistics and analytic results for the nation as a whole, by geographical region, and for each of the states. The study also offers a detailed perspective on high school completion by examining graduation rates for the overall student population, for specific racial and ethnic groups, and by gender, and analysis of graduation rate patterns for particular types of school districts.

Posted to Web: February 25, 2004Publication Date: February 25, 2004

Losing Our Future: How Minority Youth Are Being Left Behind by the Graduation Rate Crisis (Research Report)
Gary Orfield, Daniel Losen, Johanna Wald, Christopher B. Swanson

This report on the state of public high school graduation in the United States has been jointly released by the Urban Institute and the Civil Rights Project at Harvard. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) requires, for the first time, that high schools and school systems be held accountable in a meaningful way for graduation rates. Despite widespread agreement that graduating from high school represents a critical educational outcome, tested achievement remains the central focus of public debate over and state implementation of the federal law. This report combines a comprehensive analysis of graduation rates using the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) indicator developed at the Urban Institute with the findings of a systematic review of graduation rate accountability derived in each state. Woven throughout this report are narratives about students who have either dropped out or felt "pushed" out of school. Collectively, these stories highlight the critical need to provide individual schools and school districts with positive incentives to hold onto more students through graduation. Finally, the report provides recommendations on how both the federal government and individual states can act to address this crisis in high school completion.

Posted to Web: February 25, 2004Publication Date: February 25, 2004

Ten Questions (and Answers) about Graduates, Dropouts, and NCLB Accountability (Policy Briefs/Learning Curve)
Christopher B. Swanson

Achievement testing is the centerpiece of the state accountability systems mandated by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The public attention directed toward achievement scores, however, has largely eclipsed the crucial role that graduation rates play in NCLB accountability. As a result, we are only now beginning to appreciate the complexities of several key issues. Those include the origins of the law's concern about graduation rates, the status of graduates and dropouts for NCLB accountability, the consequences of using different ways to define and measure graduation rates, and state strategies for incorporating graduation rates into their federal accountability plans. Drawing on recent research at the Urban Institute, this brief clarifies these issues and offers a foundation of knowledge upon which to ground ongoing discussions and analyses of the law.

Posted to Web: October 21, 2003Publication Date: October 21, 2003

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