University of Arkansas Office for Education Policy

Arkansas Graduation Rates: Better Than the Rest!

In The View from the OEP on May 1, 2014 at 3:34 pm

OK, we’re not really better than the rest, but hopefully we caught your attention!  In a new report published earlier this week by the National Center for Education Statistics, or NCES, we do find that the graduation rates for all Arkansas students, and for most Arkansas student subgroups, were HIGHER than those of their peers across the nation!  This is good news.

Not only did the report include good news for Arkansas, it also included good news for the nation as a whole.  For the first time since we have been using meaningful measures to count our high school graduates, the nationwide graduation reached 80%.  In 2008, the Feds ordered states to employ a graduation rate formula in which the number of graduates in a given year is divided by the number of students who enrolled four years earlier. The current formula incorporates adjustments for transfer students.  

The positive graduation news in Arkansas was trumpeted by media outlets such as PBS, which noted that:

Tennessee, Texas, Arkansas and Kansas, for example, have more than half of all students counted as low income but overall graduation rates that are above average.

It’s worth taking a look at the full report to learn more, for example, about the rates for key subgroups of students, such as low-income students, special education students, and students from various racial backgrounds.  Here, however, we will focus on the news for students from Arkansas.  In the two school years focused on in the report, the grad rate for Arkansas students surpassed that of the nation:

  • In 2010-11, the 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) was 81% for Arkansas compared to 79% for the nation.
  • In the most recent year (2011-12), the rate in Arkansas improved to 84%, while the US rate improved to the aforementioned 80%.  (Only 15 states boasted higher rates in 2011-12).
  • As the table below illustrates, each of the student subgroups in Arkansas “outperform” their peers across the nation in on-time graduation from high school.  Some of the differences are quite striking!  This is particularly important in a state with a overall population that, at least in earlier years, has been saddled with a reputation for being relatively uneducated.



As a complement to this new national report, we are very pleased that we will be publishing (in the next couple of days) a detailed statewide report on the graduation rates of high schools across our state.  Stay tuned!  In the meantime, we will leave you with some of our key findings from our statewide analysis of graduation rates.  Using a cohort graduation rate formula (similar to that used by NCES) for 2011-12 and 2012-13, we study graduation rates for all students with each school and (importantly) for the subgroup of students identified as TAGG students, or Targeted Achievement Gap  Group students.  Among other things, the data showed that:

  • Southwest Arkansas schools have higher overall and TAGG graduation rates than schools in the other regions of the state.
  • The concentration of FRL-eligible students in a school is negatively correlated with overall but not TAGG graduation rates.
  • Small schools have significantly higher graduation rates than large schools, especially for TAGG students.
  • Rural schools tend to have higher overall and TAGG graduation rates than urban schools.

Perhaps most interestingly, using our model, we identified which schools are performing well above what we would predict based on their characteristics. We will highlight and congratulate these high-performing schools in our full report at  Stay tuned to our site for the full report!!!





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