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Graduation Statistics - FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

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: What is an anticipated year of graduation?

A: The four-year on-time 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 End of Year (EOY) data collection system, 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 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 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 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 effect 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 End of Year data collection system.

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 of the students in a graduating class. Five-, six- and seven-year graduation rates will be produced. Early graduates will be reflected in three-year rates.

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

A: Most likely, yes. However, the district’s five- and six-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 the four-year on-time 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 on-time 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: Does the four-year on-time 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 of the students in a graduating class. Five-, six- and seven-year graduation rates will be produced, and early graduates will be reflected in three-year rates.

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

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

Q: Why doesn’t the completer, still enrolled and dropout rate add up to 100%?

A: The dropout rate and the completer and still enrolled rates use two different sets of students for the respective calculations.  Since we are looking at two different sets of data, there is no way to combine them to get a complete set.

Adding the dropout, completer, and still enrolled rates will not equal a 100%.  These rates will not add up to 100% because the completer and still enrolled rates use a different set of students than the dropout rates.  The dropout rate is calculated based on all students enrolled within the district between the 7th and 12th grade for the current year.  The denominator for the graduation, completer, and still enrolled rate is based on the students with a common anticipated year of graduation (AYG).  A student’s AYG is set when a student enters the 9th grade.  Four years are added to the current school year and this will become the student’s AYG.  All students with a common AYG are grouped together and this set is used to calculate the graduation, completer, 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.  Since these calculations use two different sets of data, it does not make sense to add the percentages associated with these calculations together. Typically, the denominator for the graduation, completer, 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, completer or still enrolled rates because these calculations are not using the same set of students.

For additional information, E-Mail: Amanda Callinan

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