Estimated graduation rates by race/ethnicity, public schools

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Why This Indicator Matters

Disaggregated data is presented to provide a preliminary understanding of disparities by race and ethnicity. On its own, this data tells a limited story about the populations it represents. We encourage users of this data to engage with communities of color to develop a more accurate and meaningful understanding than these data allow.
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Definitions: On-time graduation rates represent the percentage of students who graduated from high school four years after they started the ninth grade, disaggregated by race/ethnicity.  Extended graduation rates represent the percentage of students who graduated, including those who graduated after the year in which they were expected to graduate (5-year graduation rate), disaggregated by race/ethnicity. Both rates shown here were calculated using the traditional "Estimated Annual Calculation."  This methodology was discontinued after the 2011-12 school year.

A student graduates on-time if he/she receives a high school diploma within four years of starting 9th grade. Total graduation rate is the percentage of all students who graduated from high school within four years after they started 9th grade. The numerator is all high school students who graduated with a high school diploma within four years of starting 9th grade. The denominator is the total cohort size who started 9th grade four years prior to graduation.  For extended graduation rates, the numerator is the sum of the on-time and late graduates. The denominator is the number of on-time graduates divided by on-time graduation rate. Thus, a student who graduated in 2009 but was expected to graduate in 2008 is included in the extended graduation rate.

The same definition applies to racial/ethnic categories. That is, the numerator is all high school students from a particular racial/ethnic background who graduated within four years of starting 9th grade. The denominator is all high school students from that racial/ethnic background who started 9th grade together.


Data Source: Data for this measure come from the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI). Data were retrieved on April 23, 2015 from "Graduation and Drop out Statistics" reports at http://www.k12.wa.us/dataadmin/.

S: Data have been suppressed due to low numbers. Data were suppressed if the enrollment of students served was 10 or less. 

Footnotes: Data last updated in April 2015 by Washington KIDS COUNT.

Race/ethnicity is self-reported by either students or parents/guardians. When students report more than one racial/ethnic category, OSPI reports the category listed first. Therefore, the racial/ethnic categories are not mutually exclusive.

The methodology for calculating graduation rates in Washington state has changed in recent years.  The traditional method shown in this series uses the "Estimated Annual Calculation."  OSPI reported graduation rates using this methodology for the last time for the 2011-12 school year.  The new methodology, the "Adjusted Cohort Calculation," differs enough that historical comparison with previous years is not recommended.  


For more information about the changes in methodology, read OSPI's report here.

OSPI defines the two methodologies as follows:

"Estimated Annual Calculation (traditional method): Washington’s traditional method of calculating the graduation rate is based on a composite cohort of students, using data from a single school year. The estimated annual graduation rate applies a compilation of dropout rates across the four high-school grade levels to the number of that year’s 12th graders. This rate also has an adjustment for students who continue to be enrolled after four years. For example, students who are in 9th grade during 2010-11 and drop out in that year are factored into the 2011 graduation rate. The same is true for 10th, 11th, and 12th graders enrolled in those grades during 2010-11."

"Adjusted Cohort Calculation (new method): The adjusted cohort methodology follows a single cohort of students over four and five years, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Education. This method makes no modification for students whose expected graduation timeframe is longer than four years. In other words, it does not allow “cohort reassignment” for special education or limited English proficiency students. The calculation also adjusts for students who transferred into a Washington public high school for the first time and joined the cohort. Similarly, students who are confirmed transfers out of public school in Washington are removed from the calculation. 

The key is that students are placed in a cohort based strictly on their first time entering ninth grade; thus it is a more rigorous metric than Washington’s traditional graduation calculation. Students are permitted to take additional time to graduate, but will not be counted as on-time graduates if it takes longer than four years to complete, and will not be considered five-year graduates if they take longer than five years."