Stat of the Week — Sept. 14, 2006

September 14, 2006 2 min read

International Graduation Rates

The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently released its annual Education at a Glance study that provides comparable data on the performance of education systems in more than 30 countries. In this Stat of the Week, the EPE Research Center looks at the graduation rates of OECD countries and how states fare in the international arena when examining graduation data.

*Click image to view larger graphic.

With a debate over graduation rates and policies ongoing in the U.S., this study offers an international context with data on the upper secondary graduation rates in other countries and explores the relationship between educational attainment and economic returns. OECD calculates graduation rates by comparing the percentage of upper secondary graduates to the population at the typical age of graduation.

The 2006 report, which provides data on 2004 graduation rates, reveals that Norway has the highest graduation rate of the countries examined at 100 percent. Five other countries achieve a rate higher than 90 percent - Germany, Korea, Ireland, Japan, and Denmark. Turkey and Mexico have the lowest rates at 53 and 38 percent, respectively. The U.S. falls just below the OECD country average of 81 percent with a 75 percent graduation rate.

*Click image to view larger graphic.

When comparing this data to 2003 graduation rates reported in the 2005 report, the Slovak Republic had the largest percentage point increase in graduation rate from 2003 to 2004 while Poland showed a sharp decrease of 6.3 percent. The U.S. posted a 2.2 percent increase over that time period.

State Performance in an International Context

In Diplomas Count 2006 the EPE Research Center examined graduation rates in the 50 states and tracked state policies related to graduation requirements. Data from these two sources provide a perspective on state graduation performance in comparison to international numbers.* In 2003, the U.S. posted a 73 percent graduation rate according to the 2005 OECD report and a 70 percent graduation rate according to the EPE Research Center.

The highest performing state in terms of graduation rates, New Jersey, falls behind the 10 highest performing OECD countries evaluated in the 2005 Education at a Glance. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia fall below all but the three lowest performing OECD countries - the Slovak Republic, Turkey, and Mexico. Only about 11 states perform in the top third of the 21 OECD countries and 51 states (including DC) included in the analysis.

*State graduation rates were calculated using the Cumulative Promotion Index while the OECD uses an entirely different method, a comparison of graduates to the entire population at the typical graduation age, for calculating their rates. The Cumulative Promotion Index was developed by EPE Research Center Director Christopher B. Swanson. For more information see Diplomas Count 2006.

**Analysis based on OECD countries included in the 2005 and 2006 Education at a Glance report with data available.

To find out more about graduation policies in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, access the Education Counts database.