Counting High School Graduates when Graduates Count

Research Report

Counting High School Graduates when Graduates Count

Measuring Graduation Rates under the High Stakes of NCLB

Abstract

This report seeks to inform the on-going debate over high school graduation rates with particular attention to the ways in which No Child Left Behind has effectively both redirected attention toward graduation rates and reshaped the contours of that debate. We begin by briefly introducing the provisions of NCLB that pertain to high school graduation and discussing their implications from a measurement perspective. Next we present several distinctive strategies for developing a high school graduation indicator that are broadly consistent with the new federal requirements for accountability. In the empirical portion of this study we construct these proposed high school graduation indicators using information from the U.S. Department of Education's census of local educational agencies and schools and systematically compare the results generated by the respective measures. We conclude by discussing several lessons this study may offer for future research and the policy implications for measuring graduation rates under conditions of high-stakes accountability.

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