sed seal                                                                                                 




EMSC Committee


John B. King, Jr.


Policy Issues Concerning Graduation Rates – Part V: 

Establishing a Graduation Rate Goal and Annual Targets for Accountability


November 9, 2009


Goals 1 and 2






Issue for Discussion

What graduation rate goal and annual targets do the Regents want to establish for New York State and submit to USED for approval?

Policy Questions

1.           What is the percentage of students in an accountability group that schools and districts should be expected to graduate within five years of first entry into grade nine?

2.           If an accountability group is below the specified graduation goal, how much annual progress must the group make in order to still make adequate yearly progress (AYP)?

3.           Is there any minimum graduation rate (floor) for an accountability group below which a school or district should not make AYP even if the school or district is achieving the annual performance target with that group?

4.           Do the Regents want to establish an aspirational graduation rate goal and a separate graduation rate goal for accountability purposes?

Policy Considerations

              New York State’s current four-year graduation rate goal for accountability purposes is 55% and the annual graduation rate target is a 1% increase for schools and districts below the goal.  Schools and districts that do not meet the goal or target for two consecutive years have not made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and are identified as in need of improvement.

              New York State’s current four year graduation rate is 71% and the five year rate is 74%, which is substantially better than the accountability goal of 55%.  However, AYP decisions are currently based only on a school’s or a district’s aggregate graduation rate, not the disaggregated graduation rate for racial/ethnic, low-income, students with disabilities, or English language learner groups.   This means that at present, as long as a school or district has met the goal or target for the “all students” group they have made AYP even if the disaggregated groups have not met the goal or target.   At present, 94% of schools (976 schools) and 98.5% of districts (659 districts) are making AYP based on the aggregate graduation rate or target.  Sixty-five schools and four districts are not making AYP based on the graduation rate indicator.    

              Most schools in New York State make AYP on the graduation rate indicator because their graduation rate for the “all students” group exceeds the current New York goal of 55 percent.  Relatively few schools depend upon making AYP by demonstrating an annual improvement in their graduation rate because AYP decisions are now made based on a school or district’s aggregate graduation rate, not on the graduation rate for student groups (i.e., students with disabilities, English language learners, etc.).   When New York begins disaggregating the data for graduation rate accountability beginning with 2011-12 school year results, more schools and districts will likely not meet the graduation rate goal for one or more disaggregated groups and will have to demonstrate that they have met the annual targets in order to make AYP. 

              The table below shows the four and five year graduation rates for the disaggregated student groups.  This table shows that most of the student groups are below the “all students” graduation rate and several are below the graduation rate goal of 55%. 

 Students with Disabilities


English Language Learners (ELL) Students


Black Students


Hispanic Students


White Students



Asian/Pacific Islander Students


American Indian/Alaskan Native Students


              In judging the targets established by states, USED has indicated that it will consider how long it would take a school or district to achieve the state graduation rate goal if the school or district were to make the minimum required gain each year.  For example, if a school had a graduation rate of 50% for a group and the state had a graduation rate goal of 90% and a minimum improvement target of 1% per year, it would take this school 40 years to achieve the goal if it made the minimum required gain each year.  USED is not likely to approve such a target.  However, the more rigorous the graduation rate targets established the greater number of schools and districts that will not make AYP and therefore be identified for improvement.

              We are working on computer modeling that includes different graduation rate goals and targets for consideration by the Regents. 

              USED has indicated that additional guidance concerning the establishment of graduation rate goals and annual targets will be issued sometime in late November or early December.  This guidance may provide additional information on the range of goals and targets that would be considered favorably by USED.   While we recommend waiting until this new guidance is issued before establishing the proposed graduation rate goal and annual targets, the Regents should continue to discuss the policy questions outlined above.


Background Information

By January 15, 2009, states are required to submit information to USED for peer review concerning the graduation rate goal and annual targets that the state proposes to use to determine adequate yearly progress (AYP).  Accountability determinations about schools and districts are based upon whether or not the school or district has met the graduation rate goal established by the state, or, alternatively, whether or not the school or district has met the established annual graduation rate target.  The annual target establishes the degree of continuous and substantial improvement the student accountability groups that have not yet reached the graduation rate goal must make each year toward the goal.  If the school or district has not met either the graduation rate goal or the annual target, the school or district has not made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and if this occurs for two consecutive years, the school or district is identified as in need of improvement. 

              The federal regulations also require that the new state graduation rate goal and targets beginning with 2011-12 school year results apply to all NCLB disaggregated student groups and accountability determinations will be based upon whether or not the school or district has made AYP for each of those student groups as well as for the aggregate “all students” group.  The accountability groups are: All students, Asian, Black, Hispanic, Native American, White, English language learners, Low-Income and Students with Disabilities).


               The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires states to set measurable and rigorous targets for improvement in the percentage of students with disabilities graduating with a regular diploma.  In March 2009, the Federal Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) issued its requirements for the IDEA State Performance Plan stating that each state’s targets for improvement must be the same as the annual NCLB graduation targets.      This requirement has significant implications for the decisions the Regents will make on the State’s annual graduation targets for all students.  The graduation rate annual targets for students with disabilities must be rigorous, yet achievable.

              The NCLB regulations give states considerable flexibility in how they establish graduation rate targets.  Options available to the Regents for establishing these targets include but are not limited to: