(March 5, 2015) When graduation and dropout rates are posted in MI School Data, questions sometimes arise about their accuracy. The answer: pretty darned accurate! CEPI, school districts, and ISDs spend several months – years really—working together to account for every student in each high school class. Here’s a summary of the steps taken at every phase.
The work actually begins when a student first enters ninth grade. Using a unique identification code (UIC), CEPI identifies all students in that cohort who would be expected to graduate four years later. In other words, we began following the class of 2014 when they were ninth graders in the 2010-11 school year.
If a student drops out and then returns, or moves from school to school, the UIC lets us follow progress toward a diploma all through high school, even if it take five or six years to graduate. An added benefit is that the new school can see which cohort the transfer student is in, so the school can help him or her remain on track to graduate.
June is graduation time. Schools report their graduates to CEPI in the EOY (end-of-year) collection. They also tell us which students are continuing with their education beyond four years.
In August CEPI creates the following for each district and high school:
- A preliminary, or “appealable” graduation and dropout rate based on data reported in the June EOY collection.
- A working list of the most recent status for all the students in the 2014 four-year cohort, as well as students in the five-year and six-year cohorts (those who began ninth grade five and six years ago, respectively).
From mid-July through mid-September, an appeals window is open. During this time, here’s what is happening:
- Districts review to confirm the status of each student, whether on-track/graduated, earned a GED, completed high school with a certificate, off-track but continuing beyond four years, or dropped out/missing. They can submit records to update the status – for example, if a student completes graduation requirements in the summer and earns a diploma, the status will change from off-track/continuing to graduated. They can also correct any records that may have been coded improperly.
- Schools may reach out to students on the off-track or dropout/missing record list to confirm their status and/or help get them back on track to a diploma.
- CEPI’s data quality team runs 60-70 analyses to identify outliers and anomalies for the districts. For example, do graduation rates and dropout rates fall within an expected range? Any large disparities in counts between this year and last year? Do all dates of birth fall within expected ranges? We let the district know of any potential inconsistencies in case they want to investigate and correct their report.
In September the new school year begins, and all schools report their roster to CEPI.
In October we provide an updated set of graduation and dropout rates and an updated working list. From October until December, ISD auditors step in to confirm the reported exit status is/was accurate. During this phase schools continue looking for students to update their status, but changes can only be made by ISD auditors.
In early December the audit window closes. CEPI does one last run to see if we can locate any other missing/dropout students who have shown up in a school somewhere. We then update the working table and it becomes the official list used to determine a school’s final graduation and dropout rates. These rates are reported to state and federal officials, and (after all the loading, testing and validating steps) made available in MI School Data.
In conclusion, while we can’t say that final rates will always be 100 percent accurate, we can say that Michigan’s school districts and ISDs, in partnership with CEPI, give 100 percent to make sure they’re as accurate as can be. Even better, we can say that the data aren’t just used for reporting purposes. The data are used to help support all students toward earning a diploma.
For a better understanding of how rates are calculated, go to the Grad/Dropout Rate report and read About This Report (in the blue bar at the top) or Cohort Graduation and Dropout Rates FAQs. If you want details about the collection and coding processes, see Understanding Michigan’s Cohort Graduation and Dropout Rates 2014. Finally, if you’re logged in with secure access rights and want to know how each of the students in your school were counted, click on the Student Breakdown radio button for status details.