Des Moines, Iowa–For the first time in the nation's history, states reached a common definition for their high school graduation rate, it was announced today. Forty-five governors and 12 national organizations signed onto Graduation Counts: A Compact on State High School Graduation Data at a ceremony during the National Governors Association (NGA) Annual Meeting here this morning.

The compact stems from the newly released Graduation Counts: A Report of the NGA Task Force on State High School Graduation Data. The report outlines five task force recommendations states should use to develop a high-quality, comparable high school graduation measure, as well as complementary indicators of student progress and outcomes and data systems capable of collecting, analyzing and reporting the data.

Through the compact, governors and organizations represented on the task force agreed to implement the following recommendations:

  • begin implementing a standard four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate;
  • lead efforts to improve state data collection, reporting and analysis, and link data systems across the entire education pipeline from preschool through postsecondary education;
  • take steps to implement additional indicators that provide richer information and understanding about outcomes for students and how well the system is serving them; and
  • report annual progress on the improvement of their state high school graduation, completion and dropout rate data.

"As chairman of NGA, I have made it my priority to raise national awareness about the urgent need to improve America's high schools and make them more challenging and relevant to student needs," said NGA Chairman Virginia Gov. Mark Warner. "However, without better data, our efforts will fall short. Because of the inconsistent quality of state data on graduation and dropout rates, many states cannot account for the status of their students as they progress through high school and beyond. The historic compact we signed today will help address this problem."

The NGA Task Force on State High School Graduation Data was convened earlier this year in Washington. The task force included representatives from: eight governors' offices, the American Federation of Teachers, the Business Roundtable, the Center for the Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University, the Council of Chief State School Officers, the Education Commission of the States, the Educational Testing Service, the Education Trust, Holland & Knight, the Manhattan Institute, the National Association of State Boards of Education, the National Conference of State Legislatures, the National Education Association, Standard and Poor's, the State Higher Education Executive Officers, and the Urban Institute. Although they represented different constituencies, task force members found substantial consensus on which to build their findings and recommendations.

"Governors, chief state school officers, higher education executive officers, legislators, state boards of education, district officials, principals and teachers together must lead the charge to create better systems and methods of collecting, analyzing and reporting graduation and dropout data," the report said.

"Our ultimate goal is that all students graduate from high school--and graduate ready for college and work," said David P. Driscoll, Massachusetts Commissioner of Education. "But to do that we must first understand the scope and nature of the dropout problem, as well as how effectively high school systems are performing and serving students."

"Clearly, better data alone will not increase graduation rates or decrease dropout rates, but without better data states cannot adequately understand the nature of the challenge they confront. Knowing the scope of the problem, why students are leaving, and what their educational and personal needs are can help leaders target resources more effectively in support of those young people who are at-risk or who have already dropped out," Gov. Warner said.

The forty-five states who signed the Compact are: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

The 12 national organization who signed the Compact are: Alliance for Excellent Education, Association of American Colleges & Universities, Council of Chief State School Officers, Education Commission of the States, Educational Testing Service, National Association of State Boards of Education, National Conference of State Legislatures, National Education Association, Standard & Poor's, State Higher Education Executive Officers, The Business Roundtable and The Education Trust.

The NGA Center for Best Practices will work with states as they implement the compact and its provisions, and will share best practices with governors and the education community.

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