Keeping Count and Losing Count

Research Report

Keeping Count and Losing Count

Calculating Graduation Rates for All Students under NCLB Accountability
August 31, 2003

Abstract

This study examines an important but often overlooked aspect of the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) that calls for school systems to be held accountable not just for test score performance but also for their high school graduation rates. It includes an analysis of NCLB's accountability provisions, a preliminary review of the states' accountability workbooks, an overview of state approaches to measuring graduation rates, and three alternative strategies for calculating a graduation rate that states may choose to adopt under NCLB. State-level graduation rates are then calculated for the high school class of 2000 according to each of the three methods using a single nationwide data source, the U.S. Department of Education's Common Core of Data. This study is also able to compare graduation rates for separate racial and ethnic
subgroups using one of these measures. This indicator, the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI), was developed by Urban Institute researchers and may offer conceptual and methodological advantages over alternatives approaches.

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