Completion, Graduation, and Dropout Frequently Asked Questions
Following is a list of frequently asked questions about graduates, dropouts, and leavers:
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) uses the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) dropout definition. Under this definition, a dropout is a student who is enrolled in public school in Grades 7-12, does not return to public school the following fall, is not expelled, and does not: graduate, receive a Texas Certificate of High School Equivalency (TxCHSE), continue school outside the public school system, begin college, or die.
Each fall, Texas school districts report to TEA on students in attendance or enrollment in Grades 7-12 the previous school year. Districts submit an enrollment record for the new school year for each student who returned. Districts submit a "leaver record" for each student who left the district and was not accounted for by TEA. TEA accounts for TxCHSE recipients, previous graduates, and students who moved from one district and enrolled in another. Each leaver record includes a "leaver reason." The leaver reasons fall into three groups: graduated, dropped out, or left for a non-dropout (“other leaver”) reason such as enrolling in a private school in Texas, enrolling in a public or private school outside Texas, or entering home schooling.
All counts of high school graduates, dropouts, and other leavers come from leaver records. TEA uses the information to prepare a variety of reports and educational indicators on high school progress. To learn more about leaver reasons and how leaver records are processed, or to see the most recent leaver data, read the latest report on secondary school completion, graduation, and dropouts.
An annual dropout rate is the percentage of students who drop out of school during one school year.
A longitudinal graduation rate is the percentage of students from a class of beginning ninth graders who graduate by their anticipated graduation date, or within four years of beginning ninth grade. A longitudinal dropout rate is the percentage of students from the same class of beginning ninth graders who drop out before completing their high school education.
A cohort is a group of students who began Grade 9 in public school in a particular school year and were expected to graduate four years later. TEA places students in a cohort based on their first appearance in Grade 9 in Texas public schools, with repeaters excluded. Students who enter Texas public schools after Grade 9 are added to the cohort. TEA adds transfer students to a cohort if, when they enter Texas public schools, they are in the grade level expected for a cohort.
No. For purposes of calculating a longitudinal rate, all students remain in their original cohort. Similarly, students who are retained in grade or who skip grades remain members of the cohorts they first joined.
In addition to calculating four-year longitudinal rates, TEA calculates five-year extended and six-year extended longitudinal rates for students who take longer than four years to graduate. Extended rates follow students one or more years after anticipated graduation to determine if they have graduated from high school.
Longitudinal rates can be calculated only for schools that have all the grade levels included in the rate and that have had all those grades for the number of years necessary to calculate the rate. In order to receive a longitudinal graduation rate, a campus or district has to meet specific grade span criteria. The grade span criteria provide some standardization across campuses and districts receiving rates which helps ensure comparability of data. Four-year longitudinal rates are calculated for campuses and districts if they: (a) served Grade 9 as well as Grade 11 or 12 in the first and fifth years of the cohort or (b) served Grade 12 in the first and fifth years of the cohort. Similarly, five-year and six-year longitudinal rates are calculated for campuses and districts if they met these criteria in the first and sixth years or first and seventh years of the cohort, respectively.
The annual dropout rate and the longitudinal dropout rate differ in the time period covered and the population considered. An annual dropout rate is based on students who attended in a particular school year, regardless of when they were expected to graduate. A longitudinal dropout rate is based on students who began ninth grade in a particular school year and were expected to graduate four years later.
A longitudinal dropout rate is based on the tracking of individual students from the time they begin ninth grade until the fall following expected graduation. By contrast, an attrition rate is based on aggregate numbers. An attrition rate compares Grade 9 enrollment in the fall of one school year with Grade 12 enrollment in the fall three years later. An attrition rate does not take into account any of the reasons beginning and ending enrollments differ. For example, the attrition rate does not take into account Grade 9 enrollment that may be high because some students are repeating Grade 9. The attrition rate also does not take into account Grade 12 enrollment that may be lower than Grade 9 enrollment three years earlier because some students left Texas public school for other educational settings, graduated early, or are in school but not yet in Grade 12. Because the attrition rate is based on enrollment figures from the fall of the first year and fall three years later, it excludes some students. For example, Grade 9 students who enroll after the fall of the first year and students who enter the school system after the first year are excluded from the rates. Additionally, because the attrition rate is based on data from the fall before expected gradation, rather than after expected graduation, it does not take into account whether a student enrolled in Grade 12 in the fall goes on to graduate.
TEA adopted the NCES dropout definition in the 2005-06 school year. TEA fully incorporated the national definition into the graduation and dropout rates for the class of 2009. Rates for the class of 2009 and later classes are comparable to one another. Rates for classes in which TEA phased in the national dropout definition (classes of 2006, 2007, and 2008) are not comparable from one class to another, nor are they comparable to rates for prior or later classes.
The adjusted cohort graduation rate is based on the tracking of individual students from the time they begin Grade 9 until the fall following their expected graduation and is the same as the graduation rate that TEA calculates for federal accountability. The adjusted cohort graduation rates for the fifty states and the District of Columbia are available in the latest report on secondary school completion, graduation, and dropouts.
Both the campus and district graduation summaries and the four-year graduation rate show the number of students from a group of ninth graders who graduated, were still in school, received a TxCHSE, or dropped out. The graduation summaries include additional information: they provide information on the students who transferred into each campus or district and on those who transferred out. To see a campus’s or district's actual graduation rate, use the four-year graduation rate.
TEA calculates annual dropout rates and longitudinal four-year, five-year extended, and six-year extended graduation and dropout rates for campuses, districts, regions, and the state. TEA also calculates rates for counties for selected years and classes. To find rates, visit the completion, graduation, and dropout data page.
Beginning with annual dropout rates for 2010-11 and longitudinal rates for the class of 2011, TEA calculates two sets of rates: one for state accountability purposes and one for federal accountability/reporting purposes. Campus and district rates calculated for federal accountability/reporting purposes are shown in Table 1 of campus/district search results. These rates are comparable to rates shown at the region and state level. For state accountability purposes, state statute requires TEA to calculate campus and district rates that exclude students who meet certain criteria. These rates are shown in Table 2 of campus/district search results. Both rates are provided in the campus and district downloads. For more information on excluded students, visit the completion, graduation, and dropout data page and select the data you want. In the first paragraph on the next page, click on the link for excluded students.
Page last updated August 2021