About one third of students entering high school do not graduate and face limited job prospects. The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) requires states to use graduation rates to measure how well students are being educated. To assess the accuracy of states' graduation rates and to review programs that may increase these rates, GAO was asked to examine (1) the graduation rate definitions states use and how the Department of Education (Education) helped states meet legal requirements,(2) the factors that affect the accuracy of graduation rates and Education's role in ensuring accurate data, and (3) interventions with the potential to increase graduation rates and how Education enhanced and disseminated knowledge of intervention research.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of Education||1. To assist states in improving their definitions of high school graduation rates and enhancing the consistency of these rates, the Secretary of Education should make information available to all states on modifications available to account for students in special programs and students with disabilities in their graduation rate calculations. This information could include fuller explanations or examples of available flexibilities.|
|Department of Education||2. The Secretary of Education, before developing interim graduation rate estimates, should assess the reliability of data submitted by states used for this purpose. This assessment could include specific criteria that demonstrate that states' data systems can produce accurate data.|
|Department of Education||3. The Secretary of Education should establish a timetable for carrying out the recommendation in our 2002 report that Education evaluate research on dropout interventions, including those interventions that focus on increasing graduation rates. In addition, the Secretary should disseminate research on programs shown to be effective in increasing graduation rates.|