The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) regularly releases data summarizing selected school performance measures. The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate is calculated by dividing the number of regular high school diplomas earned within four-years (“on-time”) by an “adjusted cohort.” The adjusted cohort begins with all individuals who entered 9th grade four years previously. It then adds to this group all individuals who transferred in between Grade 9 and graduation and subtracts students who transferred out, emigrated, or passed away over this same time period.
Certain students are not well-captured by this measure. These include Individuals who take longer than four years to receive a regular high school diploma, such as those who are held back or simultaneously enrolled in high school and an associate’s degree program. Other students do not receive “regular diplomas,” such as those with an Individualized Education Plan (IEP) or those who successfully complete a high school equivalency credential such as the GED. As the NCES notes, these students are “counted within the cohort[, but] are neither dropouts, nor on-time completers.”
In North Carolina, the 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate for high school students was 80% in the 2011-12 school year, meaning that 4 of every 5 students who began 9th grade for the first time in 2008 earned a regular high school diploma within four years. This was the same as the national rate. The 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate ranged from a low of 59% in DC to a high of 89% in Iowa.