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Maine High School Graduation Rates

Maine’s high school graduation rate continues to climb with 86.36 percent of all students who entered the ninth grade in the fall of 2009 earning their diplomas on time in 2013, but State education officials stress that proficiency must be the top priority.

That rate is among the top 15 in the nation, which reflects a rise of more than a full percentage point each year since it was at 80.3 percent in 2009-2010 when the current calculation method was first used.

Maine Education Commissioner Jim Rier congratulated Maine schools and students for the continued improvement in the graduation rate, but stressed the state’s focus must be on ensuring students are truly college and career ready when they leave Maine public schools.

As of 2018, Maine high schools will award proficiency-based diplomas that require students to demonstrate mastery of the state’s learning standards in critical content areas like math and reading.  The gap between the percentage of students who graduate and those who are proficient in math and reading is now around 37 percent, and a third of graduates who go onto college in Maine need basic remedial courses.

“While I am encouraged to see a continually climbing graduation rate, it’s more important to me that our college and career readiness rates are also rising,” said Commissioner Rier. “As Maine moves toward awarding diplomas based on proficiency rather than time served, students can be more confident the diplomas they’ve earned signify they are adequately prepared for success at the next step.”

Of Maine’s 133 high schools, 73 improved their four-year graduation rate from 2012 to 2013 and 60 did not.

The State is working toward a goal of having a 90 percent graduation rate, and 45 high schools met or exceeded that in 2013, including North Haven Community School, Saco Transition Program, Rangeley Lakes Regional School, East Grand School, Mt Abram Regional High School, Erskine Academy, SAD 70 Hodgdon High School, Cape Elizabeth High School, Houlton High School, Yarmouth High School, York High School, Wells High School and Calais Middle/High School, which all boasted rates above 95 percent.

York County has the highest four-year graduation rate at 89.86 percent, followed by Washington County with 89.29 percent and Franklin County with 88.6 percent. Androscoggin County had the state’s lowest at 77.94 percent.

The five-year graduation rate for the 2012 graduating class cohort was also up slightly to 87.39 percent.

The Class of 2013 was the smallest in recent years, down to 12,792 students from 13,042 in 2012, which mirrors declining overall public school enrollment.

While members of the Class of 2014 are getting ready to graduate in just two months, graduation rate data for the Class of 2013 only recently became publicly available due to the reporting and review cycle at the State and local levels.

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.