For the Record: High school graduation rates

July 14, 2011

When the 2011 Illinois school report cards come out in October, a major change kicks in on how the state calculates and reports high school graduation rates.
New federal guidelines set up a single, uniform standard that all states must follow when calculating graduation rates.

When the 2011 Illinois school report cards come out in October, a major
change kicks in on how the state calculates and reports high school
graduation rates.
New federal guidelines set up a single, uniform standard that all states
must follow when calculating graduation rates.

The new standard comes
six years after 45 members of the National Governors Association signed a
compact calling for a common calculation to eliminate discrepancies due
to varying formulas used by states, the federal government and
independent researchers.

An Alliance for Excellent Education report
from 2009 found discrepancies of between 1 and 26 percentage points
between the graduation rates calculated by states themselves, by the
U.S. Department of Education and in an Education Week independent study.
For Illinois, the discrepancy was as high as 14 points.

Illinois State Board of Education officials expect that the state’s 2011 graduation rate will drop, although not dramatically.

Why?  Now, the rate will be based on a strict measurement of what is
called a “four-year adjusted cohort.” The formula divides the number of
students who earn a diploma in four years or less by the number of
students who formed the original cohort—that is, the number of students
who entered 9th grade together—of the graduating class.

For example: the 2011 report card will divide the number of students
earning a high school diploma in 2011 by the number of students who
entered 9th grade together four years ago in 2008. Students who
transferred in from another school, or entered high school earlier and
are graduating in five or six years instead of four, will no longer be
allowed to ‘slip through,’ something that in previous years would bump
up the graduation rate.

The state is now able to precisely pinpoint four-year cohorts because of
the use of the new statewide Student Information System, according to
an ISBE spokesperson. The system assigns each student a unique ID number
that follows them from school to school and district to district.

Although the new standard is based on a four-year cohort, states will
also be allowed to additionally report extended-year rates—for instance,
a five-year cohort, such as Chicago Public Schools now uses for its own
district calculation.

 

In the past, the state’s calculation for CPS has varied from the
district’s, and that gap may well continue as the new standard kicks in.

2010 high school graduation rate for Chicago Public Schools

CPS: 55.8 percent

ISBE, for CPS School Report Card: 71.8 percent