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Grad Rates Likely To Drop With New Formula

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MIRS, August 24, 2008

Look for Michigan's overall high school graduation numbers to drop as the state prepares to release its data next week based on a new formula agreed upon by the National Governors Association (NGA).

"Some school districts will have a lower rate than in the past," acknowledges Margaret ROPP, director of the Center for Educational Performance & Information (CEPI).

When asked if districts are concerned the lower rates could hurt their funding, Ropp said graduation rates are just one of more than 20 indicators for Annual Yearly Progress (AYP), which impacts federal Title I funding.

The new formula is expected to provide more accurate data, as highlighted by the different rates reported by Michigan and national studies, in which districts -- particularly Detroit Public Schools -- fare far worse.

Ropp said the new formula would make it impossible to compare 2007 data to be released next year to years previous. The 2005-06 school year state graduation rate was 85.75 percent.

Michigan has adopted a four-year cohort graduation rate, along with all 50 states. It is the 17th state to implement the formula. Michigan has been planning to transition for five years.

Here's how it works. The clock starts ticking when a student enters ninth grade and is expected to graduate in four years. CEPI started tracking ninth graders during the 2003-04 school year who would graduate in 2007. It takes into account students who transfer in.

The formula breaks students into four groups:

- On-track graduate, who completes high school with a regular diploma in four years or less.

- Other completer, who earns a GED or reached special education maximum age

- Dropout, who left high school permanently or whose whereabouts are unknown

- Off-track graduated and continuing, who completed high school with a regular diploma in more than four years or is still continuing in school past four years

The state will arrive at the four-year graduation rate by dividing the number of on-track graduates by the cohort total. So a district that had 1,254 graduates and a 1,443 cohort total would have a graduation rate of 86.9 percent.

Dropout rates are calculated by dividing dropouts by the cohort total.

The state also will calculate graduation rates by subgroups of race/ethnicity, gender, race/ethnicity by gender, economically disadvantaged, students with disabilities, migrant and limited English proficiency.

The old formula used one year of data to derive a four-year estimated rate. It multiplied the four graduating class retention rates together in a single year. Class retention rates were determined by taking one graduation class at a time and dividing the fall enrollment by the pervious fall's enrollment. The average rate was multiplied by 100 to get the graduation rate percentage.


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