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Posted Wednesday, June 21, 2006
A Third of U.S. Dropouts Never Reach 10th Grade


WASHINGTON, June 20 — More than a third of high school dropouts across the nation leave school without ever going beyond the ninth grade, according to a report released here on Tuesday.

The report, "Diplomas Count: An Essential Guide to Graduation Rates and Policies," by the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center of Education Week newspaper, also estimated a 39 percent graduation rate for students in New York City, 25 percent lower than the city has publicly reported.

The report found that nationwide, 69.6 percent of the students who enter ninth grade graduate in four years with a regular diploma. It found both the most and least successful states in the New York metropolitan region, with New Jersey, at 84.5 percent, having the highest graduation rate in the country, and Connecticut, with 79.3 percent, coming in fifth. New York State, which demands that students pass exams in five subject areas, had the ninth lowest graduation rate, at 62.5 percent.

Education researchers as well as state and local officials vary widely in their assessments of graduation rates and even who counts as a graduate. For example, a report earlier this year from the Economic Policy Institute, estimated that 82 percent of all students nationwide graduated from high school. The Education Week study, with some of the lowest graduation rates ever reported, will likely fuel the debate. The Education Week study used data from the 2002-3 school year. Its figures for states were slightly lower than figures the federal Education Department also released here on Tuesday, which found that nationally, 73.9 percent of high school students made it to graduation that year. The following year, the federal report said, 75 percent of students graduated.

Both reports relied on figures that the department collects from states, known as the Common Core of Data. The newspaper's report, however, tracked promotions by grade to also estimate the probability of graduation on time with a regular diploma.

Lori Mei, the head of testing for New York City's schools, defended the city's figures, saying New York tracked individual students and so did not rely on estimates, but produced actual graduation figures. In 2003, the city reported a 54.3 percent graduation rate.

But she also said that New York counted students who received high school equivalency diplomas as graduates. Excluding them would have produced a graduation rate of about 50 percent, she said. She said that in New York, virtually all the students who drop out never get past 9th or 10th grade, largely because of poor preparation in the lower grades.

In the coming days, the study, posted at edweek.org/dc06, will provide graduation rates for every school district in the country.

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company. Reprinted from The New York Times, National, of Wednesday, June 21, 2006.

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