Making Every Diploma Count: Using Extended-Year Graduation Rates to Measure Student Success

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American Youth Policy Forum (AYPF), Gateway to College National Network and the National Youth Employment Coalition (NYEC)

This issue brief argues that states should use extended-year high school graduation rates in their yearly progress calculations and incorporate these rates into their particular accountability systems and frameworks.

The report notes that although the goal for all students should be to complete high school in four years, schools also should be encouraged to continue to serve students beyond just the standard four-year period, and should be given incentives to provide additional options leading to high school completion, or its equivalent, for students who take longer.

Extended-year graduation rates are meant to include students who take more than four years, but eventually do graduates, often in five or six years. Extended-year graduation rates allow states to document increases in their overall graduation rates and to highlight the successes that schools are having in helping struggling students complete their program and get their diploma.

The report recognizes Michigan’s Extended-Year graduation rates and notes that the six-year graduation rate students represented a few significant gains over four-year graduation students. Students in the six-year rate experienced a 9 percentage point increase in the graduation rate of economically disadvantaged students.  There was also more than a 6 percentage point increase in the graduation rate of African-American students.

The graduation accountability program in Texas includes a measure of both high school completers and those students who remain on track to graduate beyond the traditional four-year time frame. This measure still includes students who graduate on time, but it doesn’t penalize students who take longer.  In addition, Texas developed a separate measure for its alternative education providers so that the programs are held accountable by the progress they make with students in their system.

The report notes that states should also use extended-year graduation rates for purposes of accountability—that is, to help ensure critical information is gathered about students who take longer than the traditional four-years to graduate high school.

For the full, free four-page report click here.