College-readiness definition: State has formal expectations for what students will need to know and be able to do in order to be admitted to state’s two-year and/or four-year institutions and enroll in credit-bearing courses. State approaches to defining college readiness have been classified into the following categories: courses, skills, standards, and tests. Some states’ definitions may include elements that do not fall into categories established for this analysis. EPE Research Center annual state policy survey (2008-09 school year), 2008.
Work-readiness definition: K-12 education system has formal expectations for what high school students will need to know and be able to do in order to be prepared for work. State approaches to defining work readiness have been classified into the following categories: courses, skills, standards, and tests. Some states’ definitions may include elements that do not fall into categories established for this analysis. Ibid.
Distinct definitions of readiness: K-12 education system has different definitions of college readiness and work readiness. Ibid.
HIGH SCHOOL COMPLETION CREDENTIALS
Credits to earn standard diploma: Credit requirements are expressed in Carnegie units unless otherwise specified. One Carnegie unit is equivalent to one year of coursework. Credits reflect minimum or default course requirements mandated by state for standard high school diploma. Education Commission of the States, Standard High School Graduation Requirements (50-state), 2008.
Standard diploma options: Indicates types of regular diplomas issued by state: standard, college preparatory, and/or career-technical specialization. EPE Research Center annual state policy survey (2008-09 school year), 2008.
Advanced recognition for exceeding standard requirements: State offers advanced diploma or other form of recognition for students who exceed requirements of standard diploma by completing additional coursework, achieving high grade point average (GPA), or other accomplishments. Ibid.
Focus for advanced recognition: State awards honors for accomplishments in core academic subjects and/or accomplishments in career-technical program. Ibid.
Basis for advanced recognition: State awards honors for accomplishments in one or more of the following areas: courses, GPA, and tests. Some states have requirements that do not fall into categories used in this analysis. Ibid.
Diplomas Count uses the Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI) method to calculate high school graduation rates for American public schools. This approach allows the EPE Research Center to compute the percent of public high school students who graduate on time with a diploma.
The CPI method represents the high school experience as a process rather than an event, capturing the four key steps a student must take in order to graduate: three grade-to-grade promotions (9 to 10, 10 to 11, and 11 to 12) and ultimately earning a diploma (grade 12 to graduation). Each of these individual components corresponds to a grade-promotion ratio. Multiplying these four grade-specific promotion ratios together produces the graduation rate.
Different methods for calculating a graduation rate may employ different definitions of a “graduate.” The CPI method adheres to the guidelines established under the federal No Child Left Behind Act, by counting only students receiving standard high school diplomas as graduates. Recipients of General Educational Development diplomas, certificates of attendance, and other nondiploma credentials are treated as nongraduates in this context. States are likewise mandated to adopt a similar definition of a graduate for the rates they calculate for adequate yearly progress (AYP) under the federal law (although they may adopt different definitions for other purposes).
The 2009 edition of Diplomas Count presents a new analysis of graduation rates for the high school class of 2006, the most recent year for which information is available. Data for 2006 and prior years were obtained from the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data (CCD). The CCD, an annual census of all public schools and school districts in the country, also provided thew data on district characteristics used in this report’s analyses of expected graduation rates and improvements.
Several states—Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and Utah—did not report 2005-06 diploma counts to the CCD. In addition, those data points for the District of Columbia did not meet U.S. Department of Education reporting standards and were unavailable. In these instances, the EPE Research Center obtained diploma data directly from the respective state education agencies.
The EPE Research Center calculates graduation rates for all school districts in the country that issue diplomas (that is to say, those with a 12th grade). Statistics for the nation and states are generated by aggregating district-level data upward.
Alternative credential for not meeting all standard requirements: State offers credential, such as certificate of attendance, for students not meeting criteria for standard diploma. Ibid.
Basis for alternative credential: State offers alternative credential for students with disabilities or those young people failing exit exams, although other students may be eligible in some states. Ibid.
Industry certificate or license: State offers high school students option of participating in career or technical program or pathway that leads to industry-recognized certificate or license. Ibid.
HIGH SCHOOL EXIT EXAMS
State has exit exam: State requires that students pass exit exam or one or more end-of-course exams in order to graduate. EPE Research Center annual state policy survey (2008-09 school year), 2008.
Subjects tested: Academic subject areas covered on state exit exams. Ibid.
Exam based on standards for 10th grade or higher: State has exit exam(s) aligned to state 10th grade standards or higher in at least one academic subject. This includes exams that cover standards from 9th to 11th grades or end-of-course exams for courses that are typically taken in 10th grade or above. Ibid.
Financing for remediation: State provides at least partial financial support for remediation of students who fail exit exams. Ibid.
Appeals process or alternative route: State allows students to appeal after failing exit exam or has alternative route students can take to earn standard diploma. Ibid.