Phone: 612-624-5551
unews@umn.edu
24-hr number: 612-293-0831

Advanced Search

Feature

Students in a classroom

The high school dropout rate will differ depending on which data source observers base their estimates on.

U.S. high school dropout rate higher than thought

From eNews, October 11, 2007

The U.S. Census Bureau's Current Population Survey (CPS), widely used by governmental and non-governmental sources--from the Annie E. Casey Foundation to the White House, paints a rosy picture of high school dropout rates--that they are at about 10 percent in recent years and declining some 40 percent over the past generation.

On the other hand, measures of high school completion based on the National Center for Education Statistics' Common Core of Data survey (CCD) paint a darker picture, with high school completion rates holding steady at about 75 percent in recent decades.

University of Minnesota sociology professor John Robert Warren and graduate student Andrew Halpern-Manners have found that whether the dropout rate is as high as 25 percent--and improving or not--depends entirely on which data source observers base their estimates. From the more commonly used CPS, people typically conclude that about 10 percent of young people drop out of school. From the CCD, people usually describe a dropout "crisis" with at least one in four students failing to graduate.

The data sources also differ with respect to how they count private high school graduates and GED recipients. However, after accounting for the differences, the researchers found that about half of the discrepancy still remained and is attributable to misreporting of high school enrollment and completion status by individuals who respond to the CPS surveys.

The researchers conclude that reports using the CCD, which is based on administrative records and not individuals' responses to surveys, tells the more accurate, complete story.

An article based on their findings, titled "Is the Glass Emptying or Filling Up: Reconciling Divergent Trends in High School Completion and Dropout," appears in the most recent issue of Educational Researcher.


A bleak discovery... Listen to University of Minnesota sociology professor John Robert Warren discuss the national high school dropout rate on the University of Minnesota Moment.