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The Graduation Gap | Technical Notes
Center for Organization of Schools > The Graduation Gap > Promoting Power > The Graduation Gap | Technical Notes

Using Promoting Power Data to Estimate School-Level Graduation Rates

Promoting Power compares the number of 12th-graders to the number of 9th-graders enrolled in a school four years earlier (in 10-12 schools the comparison is between 12th grade and 10th grade three years earlier.)

The data are drawn from the U.S. Department of Education’s Common Core of Data. Only school level grade-by-grade enrollment data are available for all public schools in the U.S. At the present time, there is no data source that reports the number of graduates from each high school in the U.S. This is why 9th-grade enrollments are not being compared to the number of graduates.

If a school has promoting power of 90% or more, it means that the number of 12th-graders is at least 90% of the number of 9th-graders four years earlier.

If a school has promoting power of 60% or less, it means that the number of 12th-graders is 60% or less of the number of 9th-graders four years earlier.

Here are two main limitations with using promoting power data to estimate graduation rates.

First, promoting power does not account for students who make it to the 12th grade, but ultimately, do not graduate. In schools where this is a significant number of students, promoting power will overestimate graduation rates.

Second, promoting power can underestimate graduation rates for high schools in communities that have high rates of net out migration because of demographic shifts, school changes, or losses of major employers. Analysis of available migration data, however, shows that no more than 5% of high schools are likely to be affected by high rates of net out migration between 9th and 12th grade.

Schools with promoting power greater then 100% are schools in which transfers into the school exceed transfers out and nearly all freshmen are being promoted to 12th grade in the standard number of years. The one exception to this is when two or more schools are consolidated into one after the freshmen year of the cohort being analyzed.

The promoting power percents reported in the tables and graphs are three-year averages for the classes of 2000, 2001, and 2002. This is the most recent data available.

All public schools that had at least a 10th grade, (e.g. 9-12, 10-12, 7-12, K-12 regular, vocational, and alternative schools) and more than 50 students enrolled are included in tables and graphs. This is a more inclusive sample than in our earlier work, which focused on regular and vocational high schools with more than 300 students.

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