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A Look at High School Graduation and Drop-out Rates

posted May 14, 2013, 6:51 AM by Jason Tozer
Graduation rates of our nation’s schools seem to be a “hot topic” these days. In Maine, graduation rates were used as criteria to help determine the “letter grade” assigned to our schools by the state last week.  So, what exactly is the “graduation rate” of a high school?

Simply stated, the “graduation rate” is the percentage of students who entered 9th grade and graduated within four years.  All states in the country are now using the same formula to determine rates.  It is called the 4-year cohort graduation rate.

The most recent national graduation rates were the highest since 1976.  Maine continues to be in the top 20% of the nation’s states when comparing graduation rates.  Maine's rate was higher than the national (all states and DC) graduation rate for 2010-11, with only Iowa (88%), Wisconsin, Vermont, Indiana, Nebraska, NH, North Dakota, Tennessee, and Texas having graduation rates higher than Maine.  

The 2012-13 rates are not available yet (as of 1/1/14). With available reporting based on the 2011-12 school year, Maine's high school graduation rate has improved statewide three years in a row, rising from 80 percent in 2009 to over 85 percent in 2011-2012. How do other states compare to Maine’s 85%?   Examples: The District of Columbia came in at 61%, Georgia 64%, Louisiana 72%, Florida 75%, Wisconsin 88%, and Iowa 89%.  Maine would again rank in the top tier of graduation rates by states.

The graduation rate for Belfast Area High School was 88% for the 2011-12 school year, a significant improvement over the previous year and above the state average.  Among genders, the graduation rate for females this past year was 87.10% at BAHS, compared to 86.77% for the state.  Males at BAHS had an 89.19% graduation rate in 2011-12, compared to 82.92% state-wide.

Graduation Rate of schools within 30 +/- miles of Belfast:

Graduation Rate of schools within 30 +/- miles of Belfast:
High Schools
2011-12
2010-11
2009-10
2008-09
2007-08
2006-07
2005-06
2006-2012;     7-year Ave.
Camden Hills
94.55%
91.88
90.96
86.54
92.43 %
92.38 %
91.48 %
91.46%
Hampden Academy
91.26
91.16
87.91
88.89
88.85
92.93
93.17
90.60
Lawrence
89.12
83.61
90.75
86.06
85.83
86.64
86.96
86.99
Belfast Area HS
88.02
81.14
81.82
81.65
88.54
87.13
87.10
85.06
Winslow
84.68
86.40
69.29
79.55
85.00
83.85
89.17
82.56
Mt. View
91.74
83.33
82.09
80.49
87.31
72.79
81.75
82.79
Searsport
76.09
88.68
92.31
79.25
76.12
74.36
76.56
80.48
Medomak Valley
80.37
78.10
82.67
78.40
81.66
81.76
78.26
80.17
Rockland (now Oceanside)
83.82
70.80
71.70
71.21
72.27
74.44
90.48
78.53
Bangor
80.38
81.16
77.18
71.06
80.48
72.88
81.42
77.79
Bucksport
84.35
80.41
84.35
76.47
82.10
77.27
74.38
79.90
Hermon
79.08
78.57
91.54
70.35
75.90
72.93
83.33
78.81
Brewer
88.37
86.44
82.76
76.47
82.50
73.26
75.22
80.72
Waterville
72.08
69.81
79.77
73.86
74.07
72.32
82.78
74.96
All Maine Public only High Schools
84.76%
83.11%
82.82%
80.40 %
82.85 %
81.33 %
84.25 %
82.79 %
All Maine publically funded HS
85.34%

Maine High School Graduation Rates 
The new federally-required method for calculating the graduation rate is known as the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate, or ACGR, which shows the percentage of students who entered 9th grade and graduated within four years. The purpose of the federal requirement is to use the same method across states and to provide more consistency in reporting and comparisons across states. While this method is valuable for comparing schools and is an important piece of data, it does not tell a complete story. In particular, it does not reflect the students who graduate from high school in five or six years. It also does not include students who earn a GED. 

While it is a valuable tool to allow comparisons among states and schools, the new federal ACGR method does not fully capture the graduation picture for individual schools or the State. It does not reflect school and student successes in graduating in five or six years, with an alternative diploma, or with a GED, for example.
 
The federal government requires states to report annually on how well schools are meeting targets in reading and mathematics, as well as on graduation rates. If a school fails to meet targets in any area, including the 83 percent graduation rate target (for 2009-10), it is considered as “not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)”. Schools that do “not make AYP” are subject to corrective action and, and if they are Title I schools, receive support from the Maine Department of Education in improving student achievement

Drop-out Rate of schools within 30 +/- miles of Belfast:
High School
2011-12
2010-11
2009-10
2008-09
2007-08
2006-07
2005-06
2006-12; 7-year Ave.
Hampden Academy
1.62%
1.48 %
1.32 %
1.62 %
1.74 %
3.57 %
2.32 %
1.95%
Camden Hills
?
0.76
1.36
1.49
2.16
2.68
3.64
2.02
Belfast Area
2.54
3.16
2.68
2.35
2.79
2.24
2.69
2.63
Winslow
4.63
1.91
5.12
4.73
2.88
4.50
3.01
3.82
Lawrence
2.06
4.10
1.86
2.61
3.77
3.91
4.20
3.22
Hermon
3.82
4.76
4.07
3.28
4.32
5.06
6.70
4.57
Brewer
2.08
2.29
3.82
3.82
4.65
5.77
5.83
4.04
Medomak Valley
5.18
3.36
3.48
1.45
8.29
3.64
4.54
4.28
Searsport
?
3.72
1.99
3.10
5.13
7.69
8.20
4.97
Bangor
2.89
3.18
6.49
5.94
4.83
6.45
6.15
5.14
Mt. View
?
2.84
3.56
~.61
3.86
7.80
7.65
4.39
Bucksport
3.06
3.41
4.65
4.21
6.46
6.12
7.69
5.60
Rockland (now Oceanside)
4.22
6.30
5.57
6.35
3.85
9.01
8.96
6.68
Waterville
7.00
7.51
5.48
7.82
5.82
10.76
12.48
8.31
All Maine Public HIgh Schools
3.36%
3.32%
3.46%
3.42 %
4.29 %
5.17 %
4.96%
4.10 %

What is a dropout? 
A "dropout” is any student who has withdrawn for any reason except death, or been expelled from school before graduation or completion of a program of studies and who has not enrolled in another educational institution or program. [20-A MRSA Sec. 5102] The dropout rate is the percentage of students in ALL high school grades who stop attending school in a specific year. Thus the dropout rate includes freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. It is not class-specific. 

Is the dropout rate the inverse of the graduation rate? 
 No. The ACGR graduation rate is calculated for one cohort – the group of students who enter 9th grade at the same time, regardless of when/if they graduate. The dropout rate includes students in any class that drop out in a single year. If you add the graduation rate plus the dropout rate it will not equal 100 percent.

Isn’t every student counted either as a graduate or a dropout? 
No. A student who takes time off and then graduates after five years of high school is not counted in the four-year ACGR graduation rate and is not a dropout. A student could also attend high school for five or six years – until they are too old to attend – and never graduate; this student would not be counted as a graduate or a dropout.

So how does the dropout rate relate to the graduation rate? 
Obviously there are connections, but they really are calculated separately and for different purposes.

Information source:
DOE website:
http://www.maine.gov/education/gradrates/index.html