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Susanne Smith, (503) 947-5637

May 25, 2010

New Cohort Graduation Rate Raises Bar and Provides Clarity on Student Outcomes; Oregon Dropout Rate Decreases

SALEM – State Schools Superintendent Susan Castillo today announced the release of Oregon’s first official cohort graduation rate one year ahead of federal requirements. This is a fundamentally different method of calculating graduation rates. Students who receive a modified diploma, GED, adult high school diploma, alternative certificate or take longer than four years to graduate are now considered non-graduates. The cohort rate, which tracks students starting in 9th grade, provides additional clarity on where each student ends up after four years in high school and sets higher expectations for Oregon’s schools and students.

Oregon’s four-year cohort graduation rate for 2008-09 is 66%. This is the number of students who graduated with a regular diploma within four years of entering high school. The remaining 34% is made up of those students who took longer than four years to graduate with a regular high school diploma, or received a modified diploma, GED, adult high school diploma, alternative certificate, or dropped out of high school.

Click here MS-Word for statewide cohort graduation information.

While the number of students graduating from Oregon high schools hasn’t changed significantly from last year, this new method of reporting clearly illustrates where each and every Oregon student is ending up after four years in high school. Advances in technology and the work ODE has been doing with school districts to improve data systems has made it possible to track the academic progress of individual students over time.

“This new rate supports the higher standards we have set in the Oregon Diploma that all students will graduate with the skills necessary to go on to college or start a career,” said State Superintendent Susan Castillo. “The cohort graduation rate provides more transparency on the serious challenges in Oregon K-12 education, underscoring the urgency of our work to close the academic achievement gap.”

2008-09 Cohort Graduation Rates by student group:

White – 70.1%
Asian – 78.5%
Black – 47.7%
Hispanic – 52.6%
Native American – 51.7%
Special Education – 42.4%
English Language Learner – 51.4%
Economically Disadvantaged – 58.2%
Females – 70.0%
Males – 62.7%

What is a cohort rate and how is it calculated?
The 2008-09 cohort is made up of the students who first entered high school in 2005-06. The cohort is adjusted for students who move into or out of the system, emigrate to another country, or are deceased. The cohort graduation rate is calculated by taking the number of students in the cohort who graduated with a regular diploma within four years and dividing that by the total number of students in the cohort.

How is this different from the previously used graduation rate?
In the past, Oregon’s graduation rate calculations were based on the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) formula. The NCES rate was calculated by dividing the number of graduates with a regular diploma that year by the sum of the number of graduates with a regular diploma and the number of students who dropped out that year, grades 9-12.

In the NCES model, students who receive a modified diploma, GED, or alternative certificate are not included in the calculation and therefore do not impact a school’s graduation rate. In the cohort model, these students are counted as non-graduates and are included in the denominator, thus lowering the graduation rate. An additional difference is that the NCES rate looked at all graduates in a given year, regardless of how long the student had been in school. The current cohort model looks at students who graduate within four years. Students who take more than four years are not counted as graduates in this model, another reason why the cohort rate is lower than the NCES rate.

How will federal accountability work?
Consistent with federal Title I requirements, Oregon is transitioning from the NCES model to the cohort model. In order to provide a smoother transition between the systems and to provide comparability from year to year, ODE has produced both a cohort graduation rate and a NCES graduation rate. For this transition year, schools which do not meet federal graduation requirements based on their cohort graduation rate may meet on their NCES rate. Next year ODE will produce only the cohort graduation rate. The current target for the cohort graduation rate is 65%. This will be raised to 90% by 2020.

The 2008-09 NCES graduation rate is 85% compared to 84% in 2007-08, an increase in the number of students graduating from Oregon high schools. Click here for details on the 2008-09 NCES graduation rate.

Does the new cohort rate change how Oregon calculates dropout rates?
No. The federal government will continue to use the NCES model for dropout rates.

Oregon’s 2008-09 NCES dropout rate is 3.4%, down from 3.7% in 2007-08. Click here for details on the 2008-09 dropout rate. Click here MS-Word for statewide NCES graduation and dropout information.

2008-09 NCES Dropout Rates by student group (and change from last year):

White – 2.9% (-.1)
Asian – 2.4% (-.2)
African American – 6.1% (-.9)
Hispanic – 5.1% (-1.3)
Native American – 6.4% (.7)
Special Education – 3.7% (.2)
English Language Learner – 6.20% (-.5)
Economically Disadvantaged – 3.1% (-.3)
Females – 3.1% (-.2)
Males – 3.7% (-.3)

“While the dropout rate provides some good news for our state, the additional information provided by the cohort graduation rate is a clear indication of the work we must do to ensure success for each and every student. Not all students learn in the same way or at the same rate. Schools that are showing gains are expanding instructional time for struggling students, providing greater support and high quality professional development to teachers, finding new ways to engage parents, expanding access to rigorous curriculum like Advanced Placement, and using data to better track how every student is doing. As we work to make the best use of the resources we currently have, our state must address the challenges that unstable and inadequate funding create for our schools.”

• For school district cohort graduation data go to: www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=2644

• For school district NCES graduation data go to: www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?id=878

• For dropout data go to: www.ode.state.or.us/search/page/?=1

• To access an FAQ on the cohort graduation rate go to: www.ode.state.or.us/superintendent/priorities/cohort-faq.pdf PDF

Susan Castillo, State Superintendent of Public Instruction
Morgan Allen, Interim Communications Director, Telephone (503) 947-5920

Oregon Department of Education News Releases contain information that was originally released to the press as an official release.  Refer to each News Release for the details.

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Salem, OR 97310-0203

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