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Vol. 45, No. 105
Nov. 21, 2011

Missouri Computes Graduation Rates Using New Formula
Uniform method will allow states to compare rates for the first time

The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's annual report card to be released later this month will feature a new, four-year public high school graduation rate.

The U.S. Department of Education now requires all states to report graduation data using a specified calculation, which — for the first time — will allow rates to be uniformly compared across the nation. Historically, states have calculated graduation rates using varying methods, creating inconsistent data from one state to the next.

Momentum for all states to produce a comparable four-year graduation rate began in 2005 with the leadership of the National Governors’ Association. Governors of all 50 states made an unprecedented commitment to a common method for calculating each state’s high school graduation rate by signing the Graduation Counts Compact.

“The new four-year rate provides an additional way of looking at our graduation data,” said Commissioner of Education Chris L. Nicastro. “We recognize that not all students will graduate from high school in four years, but by using data effectively, we can identify the characteristics of students who may be at risk or may take longer to succeed. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure each child will graduate from high school ready to succeed in college and a career.”

The primary difference in calculating the new graduation rate from the state’s current method is in the definition of the cohort.

The new “four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate” defines the cohort based on when a student first becomes a freshman. The rate is calculated using the number of students who graduate within four years and includes adjustments for student transfers.

In contrast, Missouri’s current graduation rate calculation defines the cohort upon graduation, which may include students who take more than four years to graduate from high school. Over the past decade, the state’s traditional graduation rate has gradually increased, rising from 82.4 percent in 2002 to 86.4 percent in 2011.

The new calculation is expected to reflect a slightly lower percentage nationwide than is seen with current state calculation methods. However, both rates are useful, say state education officials. Using the new four-year calculation, the 2011 statewide rate is preliminarily reported at 79.8 percent.

The four-year rates, which also include subgroups, will not have any federal accountability implications for states or schools until next year. However, Missouri has received approval from the U.S. Department of Education to use a five-year graduation rate for 2012.

The statewide report card will be available by Dec. 1 in the Department’s online Top 10 by 20 dashboard at dese.mo.gov/top10by20. District- and school-level reports will be available in the Department’s interactive MCDS portal at mcds.dese.mo.gov.

For more information, visit dese.mo.gov/four-year-grad-rate.html