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Graduation Data - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: What is the major difference between the new four-year, on-time graduation rate and those produced in prior years?

A: In the past, early and late graduates were folded into the current graduating class. In the new rate, a student is assigned an anticipated year of graduation which does not change. Early and late graduates are reflected in three-year, five-year, six-year and seven-year graduation rates based on their assigned anticipated years of graduation.

Q: What is an anticipated year of graduation?

A: The new four-year on-time rate measures the percentage of students who graduate high school four years after entering ninth grade. Thus, when a student initially enters the ninth grade in the Colorado End of Year (EOY) data collection system, an anticipated year of graduation is assigned for four years later.

Q: Why did the U.S. Department of Education require this change?

A: The federal government has asked all states to implement an on-time, four-year graduation rate so that data will be more consistent in cross-state comparisons. In prior years there were a wide variety of different methods used to calculate graduation rates.

Q: Why did Colorado adopt this new process?

A: Colorado adopted this new process in order to comply with the No Child Left Behind Act (CBLA).

Q: Will the CDE publish historical on-time graduation rates?

A: With the exception of this initial release, the Colorado Department of Education does not plan to publish historical on-time rates for prior year data. However, if the U.S. Department of Education allows the state to use extended-year graduation rates, it will be necessary for CDE to calculate this data on a limited basis for federal Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) purposes.

Q: Will the state report the new four-year on-time rate as well as “old” rate for 2009-10?

A: Yes, CDE has provided districts (and will provide the public) both these rates, as well as the 2008-2009 rates calculated with both the old and new formulas.

Q: How is it possible that the “on-time” graduation rate reflects an improvement between 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 while the previous formula shows a decline?

A: These are two completely different calculations with unique formulas that tell two different stories. In both sets of data, the increase in the number of graduates is roughly the same—varying only by 388 students. However, the base number of total students considered differs considerably. While the on- time base number changes by only 200 students between the two years, the previous formula’s base numbers are 3,000 students apart. This jump in the base number results in graduation rates moving in opposite directions.

Q: How are students above ninth grade who enter from another state assigned anticipated years of graduation?

A: The first Colorado End of Year record for such a student is used to determine the anticipated year of graduation. A tenth-grader is given three years, an eleventh-grader—two years, and a twelfth- grader—one year. It is important that a district records the appropriate entry grade level in their End of Year data collection.

Q: What if a tenth-grader transfers into a district from out of state, but he/she only has enough credit for a ninth grade placement?

A: In this situation, a district should record this student as a ninth-grader in the End of Year collection. Otherwise, a first record of tenth-grade in EOY for this student will result in the expectation that this student will graduate in three years, which will be reflected his or her assigned anticipated year of graduation.

Q: What happens if a student is retained in third grade? Will that effect their anticipated year of graduation?

A: No. The anticipated year of graduation is assigned when a student enters ninth grade for the first time in Colorado. This assignment process accommodates the infrequent instance where students briefly enter ninth grade before being retained in eighth grade on or prior to Oct. 1 in the End of Year data collection system.

Q: What students typically don’t graduate in four years?

A: Students participating in five-year programs, such as ASCENT; students who start off below grade level, and students who interrupt their coursework for a semester or more (for work, health issues or any reason at all) may require additional time to complete high school and thus may not graduate in four years. The five-year, six-year and seven-year graduation rates will account for these students.


Reporting Considerations

Q: Will districts be penalized in the accreditation system as a result of decreased four-year rates?

A: No. According to Administrative Rule (CCR 301-1) for the Administration of the Accreditation of School Districts, the Colorado Department of Education shall ensure, to the extent practicable, that districts, the Charter School Institute and public schools are not penalized for re-engaging students and ensuring that all students successfully graduate.

CDE intends to consider four-, five- and six-year rates to give schools and districts credit for whichever percentage is highest. Prior to the five- and six-year rates being available, CDE will work with districts to ensure this formula change does not adversely affect their accreditation.

Q: How will districts get credit for students who take longer to graduate?

A: A series of rates will be produced to show a district’s progress in meeting the needs of all of the students in a graduating class. Five-, six- and seven-year graduation rates will be produced. Early graduates will be reflected in three-year rates.

Q: If a district recovers dropouts, won’t that hurt its on-time graduation rate?

A: Most likely, yes. However, the district’s five- and six-year rates will subsequently increase and the district’s re-engagement rate will reflect efforts to serve former dropouts.

Q: How will students enrolled in the five-year Accelerating Students through Concurrent Enrollment (ASCENT) program be counted?

A: Students in five-year programs will not be counted as graduates in the four-year on-time graduation rate. However, they will be included in the five-year graduation rate if diplomas are obtained upon completing that fifth year. Information regarding students who are still enrolled is provided to districts to show how many students they continue to serve who have not yet completed their high school education.

Q: How will new four-year rate affect AYP calculations? What does NCLB do with this four-year rate?

A: The four-year on-time graduation rate is currently the basis for federal accountability. However,
CDE is planning to request approval from the U.S. Department of Education to use an extended-year graduation rate in federal accountability. If approved, Adequate Yearly Progress determinations will be made for all districts, schools and disaggregated groups based on a five- or six-year graduation rates.

Q: How will the four-year on-time graduation rate impact a school for those students on IEPs and who take longer than four years to graduate?

A: Students who do not graduate in four years do affect the four-year on-time graduation rate. However,
if these students earn a diploma within the following three years, they will be recorded as part of the five-, six- or seven-year graduation rates.

Q: Does the four-year graduation rate trump IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) exception provisions?

A: No. The federal IDEA (34 CFR §300.101) states that a “free appropriate public education [FAPE] must be available to all children residing in the state between the ages of 3 and 21, inclusive, including children with disabilities.” The Preamble to the Act (34 CFR §300.102) in the Federal Register explains further that “the calculation of graduation rates under the ESEA for AYP purposes (34 CFR 200.19(a)(1)(i)) does not alter the exception to FAPE provisions in § 300.102(a)(3) for children with disabilities who graduate from high school with a regular high school diploma, but not in the standard number of years.”

In Colorado, FAPE is available until age 21, even though the child would not be included as graduating for AYP purposes under the ESEA. In practice, though, there is no conflict between IDEA and ESEA. The U.S. Department of Education interprets the ESEA title I regulations to allow states to propose a method for accurately accounting for students who legitimately take longer than the standard number of years to graduate.

Q: Does the four-year on-time graduation rate include students in state-operated programs, eligible facilities and private schools?

A: No; rates are only calculated for public schools.

Q: How will the continuation of dropout recovery efforts impact a district’s accreditation because these students take longer than four years to graduate?

A: A series of rates will be produced showing a district’s progress in meeting the needs of all of the students in a graduating class. Five-, six- and seven-year graduation rates will be produced, and early graduates will be reflected in three-year rates. Also, CDE intends to incorporate student re-engagement rates as part of the evidence considered for accreditation purposes.

Q: How will retention impact the four-year on-time graduation rate?

A: Students who are retained in ninth grade or later may adversely impact the four-year on-time graduation rate, unless intensive educational services are provided in order for them to catch up and complete high school in their anticipated year of graduation.

Q: Why doesn’t the completer, still enrolled and dropout rate add up to 100%?

A: The dropout rate and the completer and still enrolled rates are use two different sets of students for the respective calculations.  Since we are looking at two different sets of data, there is no way to combine them to get a complete set.

Adding the dropout, completer, and still enrolled rates will not equal a 100%.  These rates will not add up to 100% because the completer and still enrolled rates use a different set of students than the dropout rates.  The dropout rate is calculated based on all students enrolled within the district between the 7th and 12th grade for the current year.  The denominator for the graduation, completer, and still enrolled rate is based on the students with a common anticipated year of graduation (AYG).  A student’s AYG is set when a student enters the 9th grade.  Four years are added to the current school year and this will become the student’s AYG.  All students with a common AYG are grouped together and this set is used to calculate the graduation, completer, and still enrolled rates.  This means the students within the set of data used to calculate the graduation, completer, and still enrolled rate is not the same as the group of students used to calculate the dropout rate.  Since these calculations use two different sets of data, it does not make sense to add the percentages associated with these calculations together. Typically, the denominator for the graduation, completer, and still enrolled rates will be much smaller than the number of students used to determine the dropout rates.  It is not valid to combine the dropout calculation with the graduation, completer or still enrolled rates because these calculations are not using the same set of students.

For additional information, E-Mail: Kevin Smith

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