This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
Understanding the rates
There are different ways to calculate graduation rates. The four-year cohort graduation rates provided by the School District track each school’s first-time 9th graders from fall 2008 (the cohort) through their high school years and measure what percentage earned their diploma by fall 2012.
Under this system, students count as graduates or dropouts at the schools where they enrolled for the first time as 9th graders, even if they transferred to another public school here. Students who move out of the District (for example, to another city) are excluded from the rate calculations.
The School District’s system has been used in Philadelphia since 2006 and has been endorsed by the city and community partners. Using this method discourages a school from pushing students to transfer. It accounts for the importance of 9th grade by attributing students to the school where they start that year.
Pennsylvania calculates the cohort graduation rate in a different way. Graduates are attributed to the school where they finished rather than the school where they started high school. Under this method, a school’s rate is not affected by a student who transfers out and then drops out, and it gets credit for a student who transfers in and then graduates. A school’s results can vary widely depending on the method used.