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Home > Data Center > Student Data >Maine High School Graduation Rates

Maine High School Graduation Rates

Maine's high school graduation rate improved statewide three years in a row, rising from 80 percent in 2009 to over 85 percent in 2012. Of course, not all schools saw an increase in their graduation rate, and still one in seven students that enters ninth grade does not graduate four years later. Maine is making great progress, but has more work to do in this area.

Starting in 2008-09, Maine moved to the new federally-required method for calculating the graduation rate known as the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate, or ACGR, which shows the percentage of students who entered 9th grade and graduated within four years. The purpose of the federal requirement is to use the same method across states and to provide more consistency in reporting and comparisons across states. While this method is valuable for comparing schools and is an important piece of data, it does not tell a complete story. In particular, it does not reflect the students who graduate from high school in five or six years. It also does not include students who earn a GED.

The latest five-year graduation rate is for the class that graduated in 2011. That rate is 85.99 percent, a little more than 2 percentage points higher than that cohort's four-year graduation rate.

Maine grad rates rise for third year in a row
Press release – February 25, 2013

View the graduation rate data
Includes historical data back to 2005-06

Calculating the federal ACGR graduation rate

The basics of the new calculation method are fairly straightforward: of the students who enter 9th grade in a given year (the “cohort”), what percentage of them received a diploma in four years or less? The formula accounts for students who transfer in and out, die, or emigrate over four years. For 2008-09 graduation data, Maine will report whole group data only; the following year Maine will report graduation data for subgroups such as low-income students, special education students, and other groups.

Grad Rate Formula


How the new method differs from the old

The most significant differences from Maine’s previous calculation method are:

  • The new formula only counts students who graduate within four years of entering 9th grade.
  • The new formula focuses on a single “cohort” of students – the group of students who entered 9th grade at the same time. The old formula was based on all students who graduated in a particular year, regardless of when they started high school. Thus a student graduating five or six years after entering high school was counted as a graduate in the year he/she graduated, not necessarily for his/her class. As a result, the graduation rate for 2008-09 cannot be compared to the 2007-08 rate, as they were calculated differently. Rates after 2008-09 can be compared.

Limitations of the new method

While it is a valuable tool to allow comparisons among states and schools, the new federal ACGR method does not fully capture the graduation picture for individual schools or the State. It does not reflect school and student successes in graduating in five or six years, with an alternative diploma, or with a GED, for example.

Transition and training

The U.S. Department of Education does not require using the new method until the 2010-11 federal accountability reporting (which will include 2009-10 graduation data). Maine chose to transition to the new method one year early for several reasons.

Maine now has four years of good quality data and we can produce an accurate rate. In addition, Maine Department of Education staff spent hundreds of hours with school personnel reviewing data, helping them to accurately record every student. This experience, coupled with extensive training for school personnel over the coming year will ensure that graduation rates for schools are accurately reflected in future reporting to the federal government.

Graduation rate and federal accountability

The federal government requires states to report annually on how well schools are meeting targets in reading and mathematics, as well as on graduation rates. If a school fails to meet targets in any area, including the 83 percent graduation rate target (for 2009-10), it is considered as “not making Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)”. Schools that do “not make AYP” are subject to corrective action and, if they are Title I schools, receive support from the Maine Department of Education in improving student achievement.

More info and resources

School Administrators Guide to Maine’s New High School Graduation Rate Calculations

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Questions and Answers

What is a dropout?

A "dropout" is any student who has withdrawn for any reason except death, or been expelled from school before graduation or completion of a program of studies and who has not enrolled in another educational institution or program. [20-A MRSA Sec. 5102]

The dropout rate is the percentage of students in ALL high school grades who stop attending school in a specific year. Thus the dropout rate includes freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors. It is not class-specific.

Is the dropout rate the inverse of the graduation rate?

No. The ACGR graduation rate is calculated for one cohort – the group of students who enter 9th grade at the same time, regardless of when/if they graduate. The dropout rate includes students in any class that drop out in a single year. If you add the graduation rate plus the dropout rate it will not equal 100 percent.

Isn’t every student counted either as a graduate or a dropout?

No. A student who does not graduate in 4 years however remains enrolled as either a 5th year and/or a 6th year student is not counted as an on-time graduate and as long as they remain enrolled they are also not counted as a dropout. If a student does not graduate and simply ages out, they are neither a graduate nor a dropout.

So how does the dropout rate relate to the graduation rate?

Obviously there are connections, but they really are calculated separately and for different purposes.

What happened to the National Governor’s Association (NGA) rate?

There was movement by many states, including Maine, to a graduation rate developed by the National Governor’s Association. However, the U.S. Department of Education determined in late 2008 that all states must use the ACGR method which is similar, but not identical to, the NGA rate.