Late Graduates vs. GEDs

By Jim Hull

Another school year has come and gone, culminating with graduation ceremonies to honor students who met their district’s academic requirements and earned a high school diploma. While all these students can proudly hang their diplomas on their living room walls, a number of them are not officially counted as graduates.

As a matter of fact, about 5 percent of the students who received a high school diploma will not be counted as graduates, at least when it comes to state and federal accountability systems. This is true even though the U.S. Department of Education allows some states to count students who took longer than four years to graduate. Many states still do not count them either for their state’s accountability systems or to meet the accountability provisions of the federal No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).

These students met the same academic requirements as their classmates but they are not counted simply because it took them longer than their peers. When you look at your district’s report card and it shows a 78 percent graduation rate, remember this could only include those students who graduated on time. The percent of students who actually earned a high school diploma is likely to be significantly higher when late graduates are included.

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