Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Closer Look at Graduation Rates

By Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 15, 2008; Page SM05

Higher Test Scores Might Not Mean More Diplomas

Although high schools in the Washington region are showing steady improvement on measures such as Advanced Placement testing and end-of-course exams, that success might not be translating to higher graduation rates, according to the latest data from a Bethesda nonprofit group that is a leading authority on high school completion rates.

The official graduation rates published by states and school systems are widely regarded as inflated and unreliable. Many in the field have come to rely instead on the annual Diplomas Count report from Editorial Projects in Education, publisher of the trade newspaper Education Week.

The report estimates how many students in ninth grade graduate on time with their class, using a series of calculations that measure attrition from one grade level to the next.

The group's latest report, released this month, showed graduation rates among local school systems range from a high of 93 percent in affluent Loudoun County to a low of 57 percent in high-poverty Prince George's County. The report uses enrollment figures to estimate the graduation rate, not for current graduates but for the Class of 2005, the most recent data available from the federal government.

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