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ERIC Number: ED568549
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2016-Jun
Pages: 94
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: 55
High School Graduation Rates through Two Decades of District Change: The Influence of Policies, Data Records, and Demographic Shifts. Research Report
Allensworth, Elaine M.; Healey, Kaleen; Gwynne, Julia A.; Crespin, René
University of Chicago Consortium on School Research
High school graduation rates in the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) have shown remarkable improvements over the past 16 years. Students used to be about as likely to drop out as they were to graduate; now they are three times as likely to graduate as to drop out. Moreover, recent large improvements in the percentage of students on-track to graduate at the end of their ninth-grade year suggest that graduation rates will continue to improve for several years to come. High school graduation is a strong indicator of a host of important life outcomes, including postsecondary and employment outcomes, health, incarceration, and life expectancy. Thus, these trends potentially suggest a much brighter outlook for thousands of students enrolled in Chicago's schools today, compared to students in prior years. Changes of this magnitude prompt questions about why graduation rates have improved. There are concerns that graduation rates have been increasing because of lowered expectations for students' academic performance, or because of changes in data collection, data coding errors, or differences in how the rate is calculated. There also have been changes in the characteristics of students attending CPS high schools and improvements in elementary school achievement; these factors could affect graduation rates regardless of any changes in how high schools operate. Yet, the district has also experienced changes in its high schools--many new high schools have opened, and there have been a number of changes in high school practices and policies aimed at promoting student achievement and educational attainment. To what extent are the improvements in the high school graduation rates attributable to these various factors? This report addresses this question, assessing the degree to which different factors could potentially be responsible for the changes over time in graduation rates. Key findings include: (1) Graduation rates have increased by 22 percentage points over the last 16 years, from 52.4 percent among students who turned 19 in 1998, to 74.8 percent in 2014; (2) Graduation rates have improved for students of all racial, ethnic, and economic backgrounds, but racial and ethnic gaps in graduation rates increased; (3) The largest improvements in graduation rates have occurred at non-selective enrollment, non-charter high schools; (4) Not only are more students graduating, but graduates have higher achievement levels and more rigorous coursework than in past years; (5) Data coding issues could have contributed to some of the increase in graduation rates, but the potential influence of data issues is small; (6) Changes in students' demographic background characteristics and incoming achievement account for all of the graduation rate improvements prior to 2006; and (7) Improvements in students' performance while in high school--compared to students who started high school with similar achievement in the past--account for most of the improvements in graduation rates. The following are appended: (1) Data and Methods; and (2) Calculating a Cohort Graduation Rate.
University of Chicago Consortium on School Research. 1313 East 60th Street, Chicago, IL 60637. Tel: 773-702-3364; Fax: 773-702-2010; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Research-practitioner Partnerships; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education; Grade 9; Junior High Schools; Middle Schools
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: Spencer Foundation; Lewis-Sebring Family Foundation
Authoring Institution: University of Chicago Consortium on School Research
Identifiers - Location: Illinois (Chicago)