DOE will release newly configured grad rate Tuesday. Here is a primer.

The state will release the Georgia high school graduation rate tomorrow based on a new federal formula considered a more accurate reflection of what is happening. The new “cohort” formula also will enable us to compare states, something we could not do when each state had its own methods of figuring out graduates and dropouts.

Georgia’s authentic graduation rate is open to debate. Independent research has placed it as low as 58 percent, although the state DOE places it above 80  percent.

Georgia has been using the National Center for Education Statistics “leaver rate,” which defines a graduate as a student who leaves high school with a regular diploma in four years. This does not include certificates of attendance or special education diplomas. About half the states use the leaver method, but critics contend the leaver methodology is flawed because it relies on incomplete dropout data.

The cohort rate takes the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma, and divides it by the number of students who entered high school four years earlier, adjusting for transfers in and out, deceased students and others. This method is expected to cause Georgia’s rate to drop.

Here is a detailed primer the state Department of Education released today to address questions. Seems to me that DOE covered all the bases with this list. Please note, the state will release the data to the listed web sites on Tuesday.

Q. Why is a new graduation rate being reported?
A. The U.S. Department of Education is requiring all states to begin publicly reporting comparable high school graduation rates using its new four-year adjusted cohort rate calculation method. In October 2008, a regulation by the U.S. Department of Education [section 1111(h) of ESEA] was amended, which included a requirement for all states and local educational agencies (LEAs) receiving Title I funds (money for schools with a certain percentage of low-income students) to begin calculating and reporting the more uniform rate beginning with 2010-2011 data. Historically, states have calculated graduation rates using varying methods, creating inconsistent data from one state to the next. The transition to a uniform high school graduation rate requires all states to report the percentage of freshmen students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma. This rate will reflect a uniform method for reliable comparisons among states.

Q. How did the idea for a four-year rate get started?
A. In 2005, the National Governors’ Association took the lead to recommend all states adopt and begin to take steps to implement a standard four-year rate consistent with that proposed by an expert panel convened in 2004 by the National Center for Education Statistics. All states signed the NGA compact to work toward producing a cohort graduation rate.

Q. How is the four-year graduation rate defined?
Number of cohort members who earned a regular high school diploma by the end of the 2010- 2011 school year
Number of first-time 9th graders in fall 2007 (starting cohort) plus students who transfer in, minus students who transfer out, emigrate, or die during school years 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011

Q. How does the “new” graduation rate calculation differ with Georgia’s current rate?
A. The primary difference is defining the cohort. The four-year high school graduation rate defines the cohort when the student first becomes a freshman, and the rate is calculated using the number of students who graduate within four years. The current graduation rate defines the cohort upon graduation, which includes students who take more than four years to graduate from high school.

Q. When was the new four-year high school graduation rate first reported?
A. In Georgia, the new high school graduation rate was first reported on April 10, 2012.

Q. How will the new graduation rate be reported in Georgia?
A. The new four-year high school graduation rate is reported online at the Georgia Department of Education’s website and on the State’s Report Card.

Q. How will the new four-year high school graduation rate impact school districts’ state and federal accountability requirements?
A. Use of the new rate for federal accountability purposes go into effect across the nation this school year (2011-12). Georgia is a state that has been granted permission to use a five-year rate for federal accountability purposes for 2011-12.

Q. Will a student who graduates early be counted as a graduate with the student’s original freshman cohort?
A. Yes. In the current implementation, the early graduate is included in the numerator along with the rest of that student’s ninth-grade cohort graduates.

Q. Will Georgia count graduates who complete their coursework in the summer of their senior year?
A. Yes. Georgia seniors who complete their credits during summer school can be reported as graduates and can therefore be counted as graduating on time.

Q. If a student is held back or repeats a grade, do they enter a new cohort?
A. A student who is held back will not enter a new cohort. He/she will be counted in the school’s denominator and will not be in the numerator, unless that student accumulates enough credits and graduates within four years.

Q. What if a student transfers to a new school after three years of high school, but is still only a sophomore?
A. He/she will be counted in the new school’s denominator and will not be in the numerator, unless that student accumulates enough credits and graduates within four years.

Q. What if a student transfers in from a private school, home school, or out-of-state school and it is not possible to accurately determine when the student first became a freshman?
A. The district that first enrolls the student will record the grade-level for that student. The student then enters that cohort.

Q. How will transfers-in and transfers-out be treated within a freshman cohort?
A. Students who transfer to another high school are entered into their new school’s cohort, but transfers-out are removed from the cohort of the school they are leaving. So, depending on when those students graduate, it could have a negative or positive impact on a school’s graduation rate.

Q. Are students who do not graduate within the four-year window considered dropouts?
A. No, they are not considered a dropout, but they are not counted in the four-year high school graduation rate.

Q. Will students who drop out and complete their GED be counted in the four-year graduation rate?
A. Students who drop out of school and receive a GED certificate are not considered high school graduates and will not be included in the numerator.

Q. If a student leaves for home school, will he/she count as a transfer?
A. A student transferring to home school is a transfer-out, if the student registers as a homeschool student with the state, so he/she would leave a school’s cohort, and thus not impact its four-year graduation rate. If a student transferring to home school fails to register with the state, that student will remain as part of the school’s cohort and count against a school’s graduation rate.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

40 comments Add your comment


April 9th, 2012
12:38 pm

Some of that so-called “new math” it sounds like…………….

Taylor King

April 9th, 2012
12:44 pm

To me, the saddest thing is that the DOE has to list some of these questions because we as a country are always looking for ways to circumvent the system. The graduation rates are going to be lower than people think and Georgia will be closer to the bottom than the top. Any arguments for or against the DOE grad rates Maureen? I’d love to hear your opinion….

what's best for kids???

April 9th, 2012
1:13 pm

My fear, though, is that once a child misses his opportunity to graduate, the school will drop him or her like a hot potato, disregarding that student in an effort to work with the others who are in the following years’ cohort.
Sometimes a goal earned is a goal earned, and the timeline is irrelevant.

Dunwoody Mom

April 9th, 2012
1:16 pm

I thought the GOSA reports already reflected the new grad rates?

Atlanta mom

April 9th, 2012
1:27 pm

So, if I understand this right, under the old method, graduation rates were determined based on seniors who were still enrolled on the last day on their senior year?

Atlanta mom

April 9th, 2012
1:31 pm

While I’m working on my understanding, the new methodology must be used by any HS receiving ANY Title 1 funds, not just Title 1 high schools.


April 9th, 2012
1:37 pm

With all the cheating going on for so long, how many of these diplomas are actually worth anything? When these kids get into the workplace, their employers will quickly realize how little education they actually have. There is no point in raising the graduation rate if many of these diplomas are essentially worthless.

Hall co native

April 9th, 2012
1:53 pm

“My fear, though, is that once a child misses his opportunity to graduate, the school will drop him or her like a hot potato, disregarding that student in an effort to work with the others who are in the following years’ cohort.”

Nah – they will just follow the Hall County method and move them to a warehouse school/career academy. This method is endorsed 100% by GOSA, the GADOE and Dr. Barge. Hide them and they won’t count, dontchaknow.

Hall co native

April 9th, 2012
1:55 pm

Chris Murphy

April 9th, 2012
2:09 pm

I may be getting my hopes up naively, but I hope that the new cohort method (which, really, any of us ‘non-educators’ would think that was what they were using in the first place) shows just how much the systems have been manipulating numbers. For instance, APS loses about 50% of its kids before they are seniors, yet claims a graduation rate of around 70%. To do that, the system classified all those no-shows not as drop-outs, but as transfers. Transfers to where is never answered. (The AJC did a great series a few years ago about the incredibly shrinking numbers.)

I know this new criteria will only invite a different fudging of the numbers, but a man can dream, can’t he?

Jerry Eads

April 9th, 2012
2:29 pm

Several thoughts:

(1) Georgia has had the capacity to determine a fairly accurate 4 year rate since 2002, given they started a longitudinal student data collection in 1998 (actually 1997, but back then DOE did a superb job of cleaning things up when it was passed to them in ‘98).

The data facilitate a fairly effective grad rate determination because while there are issues tracking students with SSN, the collection enables dependence on the SSN rather than district reporting of transfers and dropouts. If a student “reappears” the following year, they’re retained regardless of the district they enroll in, and if not, they’re gone. That simple. Could also “spot” them if they returned a year or two later. I presume they’re finally using the data this way in their new approach.
(2) There are some pretty interesting issues reporting only a four year rate, one of them being the large “retention” rate in 9th grade: many studens do not earn enough credit to be classified as sophomores the following year and hence are very unlkely to graduate in eight semesters. Many of those students do eventually graduate, yet a four year rate gives no credit for that success. The four-year rate implies yet another “one size fits all” assumption about public education.


April 9th, 2012
2:54 pm

@Whats Best, What you are talking about already happens, particularly in regards to special education students who are eligible to be educated until age 21 (sometimes 22) or high school graduation. Once it becomes clear they won’t graduate in 4 years, they are often counseled out (i.e. encouraged to drop out, join the military if able, et cetera) unless they are sports stars. I don’t work at the high school level, but have friends who do and have seen this happen at more than one high school. The other big problem? With GA’s current math model, increasing numbers of students are failing to earn enough credits to move from Freshman to Sophomore, Sophomore to Junior, and so they get stuck in 9th or 10th grade. Once it is clear they won’t graduate in 4 years, the counseling out begins. I do wonder how students who transfer to other high schools will really be treated in this new system–I transferred from one GA system to another between my Sophomore and Junior years, so I know it happens.

I’m surprised no one is freaking out on here about how this is the Feds usurping local control. Remember, GA came up with the original model (the one that is definitely not working) and now has to go to a nationally approved model, whether it is any better or not.

I like it

April 9th, 2012
3:36 pm

I like this new formula and the fact that is applied uniformly across all states so that parents and citizens and companies know what that state is producing in terms of education.
Here is something else I’d like to see:
Caution – what will prevent a state from “transferring out” those who will likely not graduate in order to make the stats look better? isn’t that a problem now?
What about social promotions? This will likely encourage more social promotions so I think a test should be given too, to pinpoint just how good are the graduates of high school — are they graduating reallly educated students or just handing out the diplomas in four years to make the stats look better?
I want to find out the REAL drop out rate. The gov’t should track all kids by their social security number to ensure when they get “transfterred out” of one school, they are actually “transferred in” to anohter school and not conveniently “transferred out” to the black hole in space just to make the school look better.
I agree we should keep kids in school until their 18th birthday. Without an education, they are doomed. No one can drop out at 16 and make a living for themselves and their families. Drop outs cost themselves a life well lived and likely cost their children and grandchildren a life well lived.

say what?

April 9th, 2012
3:37 pm

Note: In 2005 the governors of every state had a meeting and agreed to this. Nothing about the federal government taking control. Under the reauthorizing of ESEA of 1965, any state and/or LEA receiving Title I funds must now follow up on what the National Governors Boards agreed to.
This is what should have been the the formula for graduation rates long ago. No extras just the facts. how many entered, how many transferred out-those who died, and how many are left at the end of four years. Cut and dry. Now the problem will remain as to what happens to the “transfers” even though they can be followed with the mandated GTID assigned to every student in GA.


April 9th, 2012
4:51 pm

I love the way the stat folks look at all this………..they can put in any program, stats, etc. but the APS is not going to look like much regardless of what they do……….too many issues that have NOTHING TO DO with education have gotten in the way!!!!!! DOE stands for “Department Of Everything that should NOT be done in any educational system! Get on my case..get on the blogs, blah blah blah. Lets just see where this system is ten years from now!

Ole Guy

April 9th, 2012
4:57 pm

“NEWLY CONFIGURED”! Gotta love it. This sounds like yet another “governmentesq” for…”let’s tell the public some nice stories…RATHER THAN REALITY”!

No matter what stories…what “official” reports the gov cooks up, the reality remains unchanged: PUBLIC EDUCATION REPRESENTS ONE OF THE BIGGEST WASTES OF PUBLIC MONIES. Nothing is gonna change until certain parties develop some professional spheroids.

Do you read, TEACHERS?

Atlanta Mom

April 9th, 2012
5:16 pm

I never gave the school system my children’s Social Security number until the last semester senior year (had to be in the records for HOPE). I had no reason to believe they would/could protect that number from being hacked or otherwise distributed.


April 9th, 2012
5:30 pm

These new numbers are still flawed and will give the taxpayers the feeling that we have a huge problem in graduation. There are many SED students that will never get to the point that they can pass a EOC test or a graduation test and now they will be counted against a district and the state.

Maureen, Do you know the % of Special Ed students we have in the state now that get certificates or participation diplomas?


April 9th, 2012
5:43 pm

I’m telling you — my son’s (class of 2010– “best in DCSS” high school — had an “official” 88% graduation rate… I’m pretty sure figured from who began senior year to who actually graduated. When he left said school mid-way through jr. year — he was kid no. 304 — dropped the class to 303 — they graduated 272 — they began wtih 525. That’s much closer to a “real” graduation rate of 50% — now they left middle school with appx. 375 so maybe it’s a 75% rate — at least a handful of them who left are now in college. The “real” rates are very hidden.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 9th, 2012
5:53 pm

ESSENTIAL QUESTION: What percentage of the diplomas issued by GA public high schools are worth the paper upon which they are printed?

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 9th, 2012
7:05 pm

OOPS: what percentage…is worth.

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 9th, 2012
7:12 pm

A graduation rate based upon a course-completion versus an knowledge-/skill-demonstration standard is misleading, at best, and duplicitous, at worst.

Of what value to society or to him-/herself is a young person who can march across a stage and grasp a piece of paper but who lacks the knowledge, skills and attitudes that s/he will need to function as a responsible member of society?

Jerry Eads

April 9th, 2012
7:17 pm

Hi ATL mom! Yes, there were a few thousand (out of 1.65 million) students who had alternate IDs in the data collections. If they seemed to matchfrom year to year with name, gender and ethnicity I would use them in my analyses – which did NOT have to do graduation rate – my research had to do with other issues.


April 9th, 2012
8:49 pm

Ahh…….once again, the fascination with ‘data’ in this world of ‘data-driven’ drivel……..The massaging of educational statistics once again results in a focus on our attempts to make tangible the intangible……I’m not sure that we should even exert the time nor spend the money to attempt to assess objectively the full impact of a well-rounded education on any individual. I don’t want to read about any more ‘numbers’ in reference to academic progress. I don’t trust most of this data, whether it reflects well or poorly on the students whose performances are being reduced to numbers in a grid. What a huge waste of time…………………let’s focus instead on the value to society of the maximization of individual human potential…………’s not just the student who benefits when he becomes all that he can be……………the numbers game is a futile, meaningless distraction………..


April 9th, 2012
10:21 pm

Perhaps, just perhaps, this will discourage systems from socially promoting 8th graders who aren’t in any way prepared to succeed at the high school level.

But I doubt it.

Jerry Eads

April 9th, 2012
10:57 pm

@Timeout – It’s THESE data – - -. And THIS datum.
Adjective-noun correction aside, for the most part, yes, but I’d argue that graduation rate is a necessary but certainly not sufficient indicator. Unfortunately it’s so easy to quantify relatively simple stuff and incredibly difficult to measure the important – and so we ignore it and delude ourselves into believing we’re measuring all we need to. I dearly hope we will make some progress away from minimum competency factoid recognition and toward learning how to fairly assess such things as reasoning and character in efforts such as Common Core. Sadly, we learned 20 years ago in a national effort how hard – and VERY expensive – it is to measure higher order constructs; I hope that even though we may have forgotten that lesson of the 90’s we don’t revert to the limited view of learning and schooling NCLB required.

Hillbilly D

April 9th, 2012
11:53 pm

I’ll admit I don’t understand all these numbers and the methodology, what about somebody who takes 5 years to graduate? Where do they fall?


April 9th, 2012
11:56 pm

data……..datum……….got it. …………just another example in support of our efforts to persuade students of the benefits of ‘peer-editing’……….

Dr. Craig Spinks/ Georgians for Educational Excellence

April 10th, 2012
3:05 am


Did you see the story about the recent $10M contract dealing with the use of mega-computing to harness “big data” in the solution of social problems? Am unsure of particulars but believe the contract involved UC-Berkeley.

Have been fascinated by the power of computing since seeing Joe Wisenbaker’s “crunching” 197K of data instantaneously in the course of his performing a mutiple-regression analysis in 1993 in his office in Aderhold Hall at UGA.



April 10th, 2012
7:43 am

I still feel parents and society are the main problem in dropouts and low grad rates. Anonmom, though her point is about graduation rates, allowed her son to drop out. We have to start early encouraging our children’s education and holding schools accountable. Most importantly, be PARENTS!


April 10th, 2012
7:52 am

I really like that there will be uniformity across states and that the new graduation rate will have less/no loopholes (e.g. withholding some students from taking the GHSGT).


Who said a child HAS to graduate in 4 years and why should a school be penalized for doing so? No all students can/will finish High School in four years but if they do finish ,.. it should be celebrated!


April 10th, 2012
8:02 am

and then you have systems with large numbers of migrant students who move in and out of the COUNTRY – how is it correct to say a student who withdrew from a Georgia school and moved back to Mexico, where he/she never enrolled in a school because they don’t have to attend high school, is a drop-out that counts against the Georgia high school? That’s how it is viewed unfortunately…

God Bless the Teacher!

April 10th, 2012
8:08 am

Why is four years the magic number? Are systems to be rewarded if a student accelerates and is able to graduate in three years? How are schools going to be rewarded when they have students who decide to dually enroll full time at a college for his/her final one or two years of high school? With all of the emphasis placed on differentiated learning and “what’s best for the child,” you’d think the graduation rate would be calculated on who graduates, period. So what if it took a student five or six years to graduate…did they graduate? How many college students graduate in four years? Life circumstances beyond the control of the student may affect when s/he graduates. Or are policy/lawmakers also going to dictate what those are?

billy T

April 10th, 2012
8:19 am

How sad. One of the few things we know about learning is that different people learn at different rates. If it takes a child 5 years to graduate, they are still a graduate! This is not a graduation rate, it’s a four year completion rate.

Just A Teacher

April 10th, 2012
8:23 am

Maybe the reason I’m still a teacher after all these years and not an administrator is because I choose to view students as people, not numbers. If one child drops out of high school, then the graduation rate for that kid is 0%. This is more mumbo jumbo from the state. I compare it to the unemployment rate which can be individually figured like this: if a person is working full time, the unemployment rate is 0%, and, if you can’t find a job, the unemployment rate is %100. These statistics are useless. If people want to help more students graduate, they should stop gathering statistics and spend some time tutoring one of them.

A Conservative Voice

April 10th, 2012
9:09 am

Folks, tell me……”Does anybody out there still believe anything coming out of D.C.? Silly People!!!!!!

William Casey

April 10th, 2012
9:47 am

IMHO, the “drop out” rate isn’t the problem and all this statistical analysis means little. The real problem is that in our society, it is increasingly difficult to “drop into” anything productive without that piece of paper. That hasn’t always been the case, even as recently as eighty years ago. There is nothing magic about graduating in four years at age eighteen. Some people mature later. Some people need to experience the harsh reality of low level work. And, some people simply are not “academic.”

Though alternative paths to high school graduation exist, we make little effort to promote them. How many twenty-year old drop-outs have ever received a phone call inviting and encouraging them to join a realistic night school program to get their diploma? I would bet that we could reduce the real drop-out rate by 25% if we did so.

I for one would be very dismayed if the four-year, done at 18 drop-out rate was very low. That would mean that academic standards were VERY low.

We need to address the very real reasons why people leave school before graduating and promote alternative paths to receiving diplomas

To illustrate the point, my Dad “dropped-out” of Brown University in 1942 to go fight WWII. Returned in 1946 and needed to make money. Took an entry level job and worked his way up to industrial engineer. His company sent him to Georgia Tech in 1956. He became chief industrial engineer for a major manufacturing plant. Probably couldn’t happen today. Was he a “drop-out?”

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No Dropouts

April 10th, 2012
1:13 pm

The new graduation rate may seem like it’s a bad thing, but it will help make better apples-to-apples comparisons with other states. Check out our latest blog about it and find more information about stemming the dropout epidemic at