Course Credit Accrual and Dropping Out of High School, by Student Characteristics

National Center for Educational Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences

Educators and parents who are looking for warning signs that a high school student may drop out need look no farther than a student’s accumulated credits. This report shows a substantial gap in credit accumulation between students who go on to graduate from high school on time and those who eventually drop out, with the difference in credits increasing with each passing school year. 

By examining a national sample of public and private high school students, the researchers found that the average 2004 high school graduate earned 6.6 credits during the 2000-2001 academic year, while tenth grade dropouts averaged 3.9 credits during that same term.  Eleventh grade dropouts lagged behind the on-time graduates by 2.1 credits their freshmen year and by 4.8 credits their sophomore year. The study also breaks down the credit accrual patterns  of dropouts by sex, race/ethnicity and socioeconomic status. Free, 16 pages.  (877) 4ED-PUBS,


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