New federally required method allows comparison among states and schools
AUGUSTA – The Maine Department of Education on Monday released 2008-09 graduation rates for Maine’s high schools. It represents the first year of graduation data using a newly required federal method for calculating the graduation rate.
The new method, known as the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate, or ACGR, calculates the graduation rate for a single “cohort” of students – that is, all the students who entered 9th grade at the same time and who graduated in no more than four years.
Because it only counts students who graduate in four years or less, the rates for most schools and for the state overall will be lower than in the previous year. The two years’ rates cannot be compared because they were calculated differently. Statewide, Maine’s graduation rate for 2008-09 is 80.4 percent. The rate under the old method for 2007-08 was 83.5 percent. This does not mean the graduation rate is dropping. Rather it is a reflection of the changes in the way we now calculate the rate.
The purpose of the federal requirement is to use the same method across states and to provide more consistency in reporting and comparisons across states.
The most significant differences from Maine’s previous calculation method are that the new formula: 1) only counts students who graduate within four years of entering 9th grade; and 2) focuses on a single “cohort” of students – the group of students who entered 9th grade at the same time.
The old formula was based on all students who graduated in a particular year, regardless of when they started high school. Thus a student graduating five or six years after entering high school was counted as a graduate in the year he/she graduated, not necessarily for his/her class. As a result, the graduation rate for 2008-09 cannot be compared to the 2007-08 rate, as they were calculated differently.
“Although historically Maine has graduated a higher percentage of students than the national average, we recognize the room for improvement and the need for all Maine students to graduate prepared for their futures,” said Angela Faherty, acting commissioner of education for the State of Maine.
But, Faherty said, the new federal calculation method does not tell the whole story. It does not reflect school and student successes in graduating in five or six years, with an alternative diploma, or with a GED, for example.
“The time it takes to achieve Maine’s quality learning standards will be varied. We must acknowledge individual differences and the need for providing opportunities to English Language Learners and many others. As part of our comprehensive work to engage students and prevent them from dropping out, we are working with stakeholders to increase student completion and to be able to honor those that achieve graduation past the four-year cohort group calculation.”
The Maine Legislature passed a law in early 2010, sponsored by Sen. Justin Alfond, D-Portland, requiring that all high schools graduate at least 90 percent of their students by 2016. Among other provisions, the law called for a group of educators and others to develop a plan for expanding the graduation rate formula to reflect those students who achieve Maine’s Learning Results standards through multiple pathways and over more than the four year time frame – students who are not captured in the four-year ACGR rate. This already-convened group is considering, among other issues, whether or not to count alternative diplomas, GEDs, students who graduate in five or six years, and what to do when a student has been expelled and returns to school.
Even after completing this work, Maine will still be required to report the universal ACGR rate to the U.S. Department of Education for accountability purposes, regardless of what expanded formula Maine might use for its own purposes.
For more information, visit the Maine Department of Education .