Pennsylvania Department of Education: New 'Four-Year Cohort' Graduation Rates Now Available

Mar 15, 2011, 14:11 ET from Pennsylvania Department of Education

More Precise Calculation Methods will Aid Better-Informed Decisions

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 15, 2011 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Parents and policymakers will now have a more precise measure of high school graduation rates with the implementation of an improved calculation method, the state Department of Education said today.

Preliminary results of the new "Four-Year Cohort Graduation Rate" are available today on the department's website at The preliminary data are available at the district and school levels.

"The improved data will expand our understanding of the characteristics of the students who do not earn regular high school diplomas, or who take longer than four years to graduate," said acting Secretary of Education Ronald Tomalis. "It will help inform efforts to ensure that all Pennsylvania students are prepared for postsecondary education and the workforce."

Improved methods of collecting information, reporting and analysis, linking data systems from preschool through postsecondary education, will provide a more accurate picture for making decisions at the school and district level.

The cohort calculation method replaces the previous methodology, known as the leaver rate. Because the cohort calculation almost always reflects a lower percentage than the leaver rate, Tomalis cautioned that the new rate cannot be compared to previous years' calculations.

"It's important to understand that while the numbers may look different than in previous years, it is because the improved methodology is giving a more reliable and accurate picture – not necessarily because of any difference in underlying performance," Tomalis said.

Tomalis said the new calculation shows the percentage of students who complete high school in four years based on the year in which a student first enters ninth grade. The old calculation does not track the status of individual students, nor does it account for students who transfer in and out of a school or district.

The newly-calculated rate is not a correction of the previous graduation rate, Tomalis said. He also noted it would be inaccurate to calculate the graduation rate as the inverse of a school/district's dropout rate. For example, if the graduation rate is 85 percent, the dropout rate is not necessarily 15 percent, since some students simply take more time to earn a diploma.

Federal guidelines required that states use a graduation rate as one of the indicators in determining a district and high school's Adequate Yearly Progress, or AYP. Since 2002 Pennsylvania has been using a leaver rate calculation to determine the graduation rate. However, beginning in 2012, states are required to use a "Four-Year Cohort Graduation Rate" calculation to determine AYP status.

The leaver rate will continue to be used for AYP determinations for the 2010-11 school year. However, on the 2011 school, district and state "Report Cards," the Department of Education will list both rates.  

In addition to the data, supporting documentation is available at the department's webpage.

Media contact: Steve Weitzman, 717-783-9802

SOURCE Pennsylvania Department of Education