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This paper addresses the debate over high school graduation rates, examining how the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (NCLB) has redirected attention toward graduation rates. It introduces provisions of the NCLB pertaining to high school graduation, discussing implications from a measurement perspective, and presents strategies for developing a high school graduation indicator that are broadly consistent with new federal accountability requirements. An empirical study constructs these proposed high school graduation indicators using information from the U.S. Department of Education's Common Core of Data. These indicators are created at the district level for the high school class of 2000. Results generated by the respective measures are systematically compared, examining their point estimates and distributions, quality of the indicators from an informational perspective, and differential performance of the indicators when disaggregated by state and agency characteristics (e.g., minority enrollment and district size). Results reveal substantial differences among the alternative graduation rate indicators (e.g., the Cumulative Promotion Index and the Greene Method). The paper notes that indicators cannot be calculated for many states and districts due to missing information on the number of students who drop out. In cases where values can be computed, dropout-dependent measures appear to dramatically overestimate graduation rates compared to alternative indicators. (Contains 22 references.) (SM)

Descriptors: Accountability, Dropout Rate, Dropouts, Federal Legislation, Graduation, High School Graduates, High Stakes Tests, Research Methodology, Secondary Education, Student Evaluation

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Autor: Swanson, Christopher B.; Chaplin, Duncan


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