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Graduation Statistics - FAQs

Q: Why did Colorado's graduation rate calculation change in the 2009-2010 school year?

A: The U.S Department of Education asked all states to implement a four-year graduation rate so that data would be more consistent in cross-state comparisons. In prior years there were a wide variety of different methods used across the nation to calculate graduation rates.

Q: Where can I find more information about the change in the 2009-2010 school year to the Anticipated Year of Graduation cohort method of calculating rates?

A: More information regarding the calculation change in 2009-2010 can be found on our historical grad rates page.

Q: What is an anticipated year of graduation?

A: The four-year 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 Student End of Year (SEY) data collection, an anticipated year of graduation is assigned for four years later.

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

A: The first Colorado Student 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 Student 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 Student 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 in his or her assigned anticipated year of graduation.

Q: What happens if a student is retained in third grade? Will that impact 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 Student End of Year data collection.

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

A: Students who interrupt their coursework for a semester or more (for work, health issues or any reason at all), or students who start off below grade level 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: 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 students in a graduating class. Five-, six- and seven-year graduation rates will be produced. Early graduates will be reflected in three-year rates available to districts through the secure Colorado Education Data Analysis and Reporting System. Three-year rates are not posted publicly to protect student data privacy due to small student group sizes. All early graduates are incorporated into the 4-year graduation rate for an anticipated year of graduation cohort when this data is publicly available.

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

A: Most likely, yes. However, the district's five-, six-, and seven-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 the ASCENT program will be counted as graduates in the four-year graduation rate as long as they have met graduation requirements. Students in five-year programs who meet graduation requirements in the fifth year will be included in the five-year extended graduation rate.

Q: How will students enrolled in the six-year Teacher Recruitment Education and Preparation Program (TREP) or Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools (P-TECH) program be counted?

A: Students in the TREP or P-TECH programs will be counted as graduates in the four-year graduation rate as long as they have met graduation requirements. Students in six-year programs who meet graduation requirements in the fifth or sixth year will be included in the five- or six-year extended graduation rate as applicable.

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

A: Students who do not graduate in four years do affect the four-year 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: How will students with disabilities participating in Secondary Transition be counted?

A: Beginning in 2020-2021, students with disabilities who participate in Secondary Transition will be counted as graduates in the four-year graduation rate as long as they have met graduation requirements. Otherwise, the student will be counted as a graduate in the applicable extended year rate in which they meet graduation requirements (five-, six-, or seven-year).

Q: Does the four-year 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 students in a graduating class. Five-, six-, and seven-year graduation rates will be produced.

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

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

Q: Why don't the completion, still enrolled and dropout rates add up to 100%?

A: Adding the dropout, completion, and still enrolled rates will not equal 100% because two different sets of students are used when calculating these rates.

The dropout rate is calculated annually based on all students enrolled within the district between the 7th and 12th grade for the current year.

Completion and still enrolled rates are based upon students with a common anticipated year of graduation (AYG). All students with a common AYG are grouped together and this set is used to calculate the graduation, completion, 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.

Typically, the denominator for the graduation, completion, 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, completion, or still enrolled rates because these calculations are not using the same set of students.

Q: What methods are used to protect student data privacy for aggregate reporting?

A. Click here to view the Graduation, Dropout, Mobility Rates: Aggregate Data Privacy page.

For additional information, email Reagan Ward, ward_r@cde.state.co.us