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How Well Are We Measuring Graduation Rates?

Douglas N. Harris

Date & Time
Wednesday, December 14, 2016
12:00–1:00 pm
1555 Poydras Street, Conference Room 760

Authors: Nathan Barrett, Douglas N. Harris, and Lihan Liu, Education Research Alliance for New Orleans

Research shows that measures of educational attainment such as graduation and college entrance rates are strong predictors of long-term life outcomes for students, and for this reason, policymakers have been searching for ways to increase high school graduation rates. This year, America’s high school reported graduation rate reached a record high of 83.2 percent, and Louisiana’s reported graduation rate continued its upward trend, climbing to 77.5 percent. The gains have been especially large for disadvantaged students.

In this paper, we attempt to understand the sources of these gains, including the changes in the types of credentials students are receiving and concerns that have been raised about misreporting. Prior research on test scores (outside of New Orleans) has shown that accountability pressures push some schools to artificially increase their test scores, and some have suggested the same is happening with graduation rates where the stakes have also risen. We investigate this possibility.

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