High School Graduation Rates:Alternative Methods and Implications


  • Jing Miao Boston College
  • Walt Haney Boston College




The No Child Left Behind Act has brought great attention to the high school graduation rate as one of the mandatory accountability measures for public school systems. However, there is no consensus on how to calculate the high school graduation rate given the lack of longitudinal databases that track individual students. This study reviews literature on and practices in reporting high school graduation rates, compares graduation rate estimates yielded from alternative methods, and estimates discrepancies between alternative results at national, state, and state ethnic group levels. Despite the graduation rate method used, results indicate that high school graduation rates in the U.S. have been declining in recent years and that graduation rates for black and Hispanic students lag substantially behind those of white students. As to graduation rate method preferred, this study found no evidence that the conceptually more complex methods yield more accurate or valid graduation rate estimates than the simpler methods.


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Author Biographies

Jing Miao, Boston College

Jing Miao is a PhD candidate in Educational Research, Measurement and Evaluation program in the Lynch School of Education at Boston College. She was the coauthor of several research reports at the National Board on Educational Testing and Public Policy (NBETPP) at Boston College. Her current research interests include grade retention, high school dropout and high-stakes testing.

Walt Haney, Boston College

Walt Haney is Professor of Education in the Lynch School of Education and Senior Research Associate in the Center for the Study of Testing, Evaluation and Educational Policy, both at Boston College. He has been author or co-author of a number of previous articles in Education Policy Analysis Archives. His most recent article in a paper journal is "Drawing on education: Using drawings to document schooling and support change." Harvard Educational Review, Fall 2004 (74:3), pp. 241-272 (with M. Russell and D. Bebell).




How to Cite

Miao, J., & Haney, W. (2004). High School Graduation Rates:Alternative Methods and Implications. Education Policy Analysis Archives, 12, 55. https://doi.org/10.14507/epaa.v12n55.2004