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GAO Questions State Graduation-Rate Data

By Lynn Olson — September 27, 2005 1 min read
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Fewer than half the states conduct audits to verify that the school and district data used to calculate high school graduation rates are accurate, according to a survey conducted by the Government Accountability Office.

“Education Could Do More to Help States Better Define Graduation Rates and Improve Knowledge About Intervention Strategies” is available from the Government Accountability Office.

The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to use graduation rates, along with test scores, to assess how much progress high schools are making in educating their students. But each state has flexibility in determining how the graduation rate will be calculated, as long as its method is “valid and reliable.”

The GAO surveyed officials in 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico as part of a study to assess the accuracy of states’ graduation rates. It selected 20 states for further analysis.

The study found that data inaccuracies, such as miscounting the number of dropouts, could significantly raise or lower a school’s graduation rate. And it suggested that the Department of Education has not done enough to help improve the accuracy of state data.

In July, the department announced plans to calculate and report interim graduation-rate estimates for each state. But the GAO report questioned whether the department would have accurate enough data for calculating those estimates.

A version of this article appeared in the September 28, 2005 edition of Education Week

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