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Information Services - Statistical Reports

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. How is the 4-year graduation rate calculated?
  2. What was the impetus for calculating graduation rates?
  3. What about students who take longer than four years to graduate?
  4. Are graduation rates disaggregated by student subgroups?
  5. How are students assigned to cohorts?
  6. How are out-placed students included?
  7. How are 9th to 12th grade dropout students counted?
  8. How are transfers counted?
  9. What happens to students retained in their grade?
  10. How are summer graduates included in the graduation rate calculations?
  11. What if I need additional help?
  1. How is the 4-year graduation rate calculated?

    To calculate the 4-year graduation rate, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) tracks a cohort of students from 9th grade through high school and then divides the number of students who graduate within four years by the total number in the cohort. In other words the rate provides the percentage of the cohort that graduates in 4 years or less. For example, the formula for the 2011 cohort is:

    # of students in cohort who graduate in 4 years or less
    a black line
    [# of 1st time entering 9th graders in 2007–08] − transfers out + transfers in

    Rates are generated for the entire student population and for individual student subgroups at the state-, district-, and school-level.

  2. What was the impetus for calculating graduation rates?

    ESE is calculating and reporting graduation rates as part of overall efforts to improve educational outcomes for all students. In addition, reporting graduation rates is required by the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and by a National Governors Association compact that Massachusetts has signed.

    Until recently, graduation rates could only be estimated from annual dropout data or from grade level enrollment information. Since 2006, the Department has had enough student-level data from the state's Student Information Management System (SIMS) to track an individual class from the initial entrance into 9th grade through to graduation.

  3. What about students who take longer than four years to graduate?

    ESE understands that many students need longer than fours years to graduate from high school, and that it is important to recognize the accomplishment regardless of the time it takes. Therefore, ESE will publish a 5-year graduation rate when data become available and additional rates as policy and program needs may warrant.

    The 5-year rate for the 2010 cohort will be calculated as:

    # of students in cohort who graduate in 5 years or less
    a black line
    [# of 1st time entering 9th graders in 2006–07] − transfers out + transfers in

  4. Are graduation rates disaggregated by student subgroups?

    Graduation rates are reported by the following student populations: Limited English Proficient, special education, low-income, gender, and the race/ethnicity categories. A student is included in the LEP, special education, or low-income subgroup — or any combination of them — if he/she was reported in that subgroup in at least one SIMS report over the course of his/her high school career. A different approach must be taken with the race/ethnicity groups, as they are all considered subgroups. In the cases where a student's reported race/ethnicity changes during high school, the student is included according to the last reported category.

  5. How are students assigned to cohorts?

    Students are assigned to cohorts based on when they first enter grades 9-12 in a Massachusetts public school system. Once a student is assigned a particular cohort year (e.g., 2011), the student's cohort never changes.

  6. How are out-placed students included?

    Publicly funded students placed in collaboratives and private special education schools are included in their district rates.

  7. How are 9th to 12th grade dropout students counted?

    Students who drop out remain in the school and district cohort.

    If the student re-enrolls in another school after dropping out, he/she is included in the original school and district cohort as a dropout AND as enrolled in the new school and district cohort.

  8. How are transfers counted?

    Students who transfer from one school to another within the same district will not be included in the original school cohort, but will be in the second school cohort.

    Students who transfer from one district to another district will not be counted in the original school and district cohort, but will be counted in the second school and district cohort. For example, a student from Pinecone High School in Evergreen District transfers to Acorn High School in Oak District. That student will be counted in the Oak District data, and not in the Evergreen District data.

    There is no cut-off date for transfers into a school in the 4-year graduation rate. For example, a student that transfers into a high school in May of his/her senior year will be counted in that school's graduation rate. However, in order to understand better how schools and districts are doing with students that started 9th grade with them and didn't transfer out, ESE will also publish an "adjusted" graduation rate. The adjusted graduation rate includes only those students who were in the original cohort and did not leave the cohort. It does not include the students that transferred into the school or district after October 1 of 9th grade.

  9. What happens to students retained in their grade?

    The student's cohort does not change when he/she is retained in grade. Therefore, the student does not count as a graduate in the 4-year rate, but could be counted in the 5-year determination for that cohort.

    Students who are retained in a high school grade prior to transfer are counted in the second school and district cohort, but not as a 4-year graduate. For example, if a student repeats grade 9 in school X and then moves to school Y in another district at the start of grade 10 and graduates three years later, he/she is counted in the denominator for school Y but not in the numerator for the 4-year graduation rate. He/she is counted in the numerator for the 5-year graduation rate.

  10. How are summer graduates included in the graduation rate calculations?

    Summer graduates are included as if they graduated in the Summer preceding the 2011-12 school year.

  11. What if I need additional help?

    If you have any additional questions, please email graduationrates@doe.mass.edu.



Last Updated: November 13, 2008
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