Note: This entry was orignially posted on National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) Center for Public Education’s blog The Edifier.
It took awhile but states will finally be able to count those students who take longer than four years to earn a high school diploma (late graduates) as graduates through a common graduation rate formula that all states must use starting this summer. NSBA has been fighting for this change ever since the Center released its Better Late Than Never: Examining late high school graduates report over two and half years ago which showed that late graduate’s were more successful after high school in terms of earning a college degree, finding a good job, civic engagement and living healthier than those students who earned a GED or never earned a high school credential. As a matter for fact, late graduates’ postsecondary outcomes outcomes did not differ much from those students who graduated on-time. So there was little reason why late graduates shouldn’t have been counted as graduates.
The adoption of the common rate enables states to report an extended-year rate which would include late graduates that are currently not counted in most state gradation rates. In a press release announcing the common rate the U.S. Department of Education declared:
States may also opt to use an extended-year adjusted cohort, allowing states, districts and schools to account for students who complete high school in more than four years.
Moreover, in the release Secretary Arne Duncan stated that a common rate “…will also encourage states to account for students who need more than four years to earn a diploma.”
This is a major step forward in giving districts credit where credit is due by counting all students who earn a standard high school diploma as graduates not just those who earn a diploma in four years. However, how districts get credit, if any, for their late graduates under Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) / No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB) and most state accountability systems is still unclear. Hopefully Congress will reauthorize ESEA soon and put into law that indeed late graduates are graduates even for accountability sake.