Graduation Cohort Frequently Asked Questions

Please click a question below for more information.

1. Is this the first year for a 4-year graduation rate?
No, New Mexico implemented the first 4-year cohort graduation rate for the class of 2008, published in 2009. Prior to that time the state utilized a senior completion method that tracked 12th grade students to completion of graduation requirements by spring. The use of the senior completion method was discontinued after the class of 2007, as New Mexico undertook the transition to the National Governors Association (NGA) cohort computation.

2. Is this the first year for a 5-year graduation rate?
No, New Mexico implemented the first 5-year cohort graduation rate in 2010, reporting on the Cohort of 2008 and their success in the 5th year. The longitudinal data system STARS (Student Teacher Accountability Reporting System) now contains necessary data to inform a 5-year rate. Therefore, beginning in 2010 the 5-year rate will be reported along with the 4-year rate for all classes.

3. How are the cohorts named?
Graduation rules apply to students that began high school in the fall of a given school year, and who were expected to graduate 4 years later by August 1. The group is named by their expected graduation year, such as the Cohort of (or Class of) 2009. Students who qualify to be members of the 4-year cohort are then tracked for one additional year, and reported in the 5th year named for their original cohort (i.e. 5-year graduation rates for the Cohort of 2009).

4. Why is it the prior year's class instead of this year's?
The NGA cohort rate requires that students be given 4 full years to graduate, including the summer following their 12th grade year. In order to capture the outcomes of students completing requirements their final summer, the reporting of graduation must be lagged by one year. That is, the graduates of 2008 are reported in the spring of 2009. To shift to the one-year lagged schedule of reporting, the United States Department of Education allowed New Mexico to duplicate the graduation rates from 2007 in 2008.

5. Are these rates similar to prior rates?
Yes and No. The Shared Accountability method allows comparison to the 4-year rates published since 2009. However, between years 2007 and 2008 a break in trend prohibits useful comparisons with prior years.

6. What happened to the 5-year rate passed by the legislature?
Legislation in 2009 mandated the reporting of the 5-year rate for New Mexico schools and districts. The longitudinal data system STARS (Student Teacher Accountability Reporting System) now contains necessary data to inform the 5-year rate. Therefore, beginning in 2010 the 5-year rate will be reported along with the 4-year rate for all classes. Separate technical documents and FAQs exist for the 5-year rate and are available on the NMPED website. The 4-year rate was approved by the U.S. Department of Education as the standard for AYP accountability.

7. What is the NGA 4-year cohort?
2005 the National Governors Association convened a Task Force to make recommendations on how states could measure graduation rates in a way that was comparable across states and was based on high-quality, student-level longitudinal data. The resulting recommendation, ultimately agreed to by all 50 governors, was for all states to calculate a high school graduation rate based on the following formula:
On-time graduates by year X
[(first time 9th graders in year X-4) + (transfers in)  (transfers out)]

8. What is "Shared Accountability"?
In the past, New Mexico assigned a student's graduation outcome to the school where they were last enrolled. Mobile students who attended several schools would impact only their most recent school. Moreover, only schools with a 12th grade were eligible to receive a rate. In order to hold all schools accountable for their effect on graduating students, the Shared Accountability method was developed to give feedback to all high schools, including those with only 9th or 10th grades. The method apportions a student's outcome among all schools they attended, and is adjusted by the amount of time spent at each school.

9. Does this mean that mobile students count more than stable students in the rates?
No, every student contributes a total count of 1.0 (100%) to the numerator and denominator of the rate for schools, districts, and state. For example, a student who attended two schools for equal amounts of time would contribute .50 (or 50%) of their outcome to each school.

10. Who else uses this method?
New Mexico is one of the first to use shared accountability, primarily because of the capabilities of our Student Teacher Accountability Reporting System (STARS) which was implemented in 2005. Students are now tracked with multiple yearly snapshots that provide a valuable history of how long the student attended each high school. Other states do not yet have adequate information systems that can provide this information.

11. Who is a member of the cohort?
The cohort consists of all first-time 9th graders in the first of the 4 years of the cohort span. They are joined by incoming 10th graders in the second year, 11th graders in the third year, and 12th graders in the fourth year. To become a member the student must have been enrolled for at least one semester during the four year period.

12. Are there any students who are not in the cohort?
Yes. Certain students are excluded from the cohort because they meet these criteria:
  • Foreign exchange authorized to be in the U.S. on a "J" visa
  • Transferred out to a private, out-of-state, Bureau of Indian Education, or home school
  • Deceased
  • Moved outside of the United States and its territories

13. Can students be reassigned to a different cohort?
In general, students cannot be reassigned to a different cohort once they have become a member. However there are certain conditions that will permit a student extra time to graduate provided that the reason is documented during high school:
  • Incarceration where there are no educational programs
  • Student with a disability (SWD)
  • Pregnancy
  • Significant medical or family emergency

14. What about students who graduate early?
Students who graduate early will count in the cohort to which they were originally assigned.

15. NGA allows certain students with disabilities or English language learners extra time. Does New Mexico follow this guideline?
Yes. In 2009 New Mexico began allowing extra time for students with disabilities who's IEP indicates that they need longer than 4 years to complete high school. The rule for English language learners applies only to recent immigrants.

16. Does every high school receive a graduation rate?
Yes, every school with any grade 9, 10, 11, or 12 will receive a rate. That includes 9th grade academies, schools configured with additional lower grades such as K-12, and regular high schools. There are a small number of new schools whose students have not yet reached the age of 4-year graduation, and these schools cannot yet be rated.

17. How does the graduation rate relate to ESEA (formerly NCLB) requirements?
Graduation continues to serve as the AYP Additional Academic Indicator only for high schools with a 12th grade, and for all districts. All other schools without a 12th grade continue to have attendance rates evaluated as the additional indicator.

18. How were graduation targets set?
Annual Measurable Objectives (AMOs) for the cohort graduation rate were set in 2009 to increase from a baseline of 63% for the cohort of 2009 toward a graduation goal of 85% for the cohort of 2020. A 52% baseline in 2008 was adjusted to account for the inability to apply NGA flexibility for English language learners and students with disabilities.

  Graduating Class of
% Graduated 63%65%67%69%71%73%75%77%79%81%83%85%
Reporting Yr 201020112012201320142015201620172018201920202021

Annual Measurable Objectives for Graduation

19. Can some students take longer to graduate?
Specialized groups may be allowed 5, 6, or 7 years to graduate, such as students with disabilities whose IEP allocates additional time, or recent immigrants that do not speak English. These students are reassigned to a later cohort.

20. Who is considered a "graduate"?
Graduates are students who graduate with a standard diploma (including the Career and Ability pathways). Students who exit high school with a GED or a Certificate of Completion (complete course requirements but do not pass all portions of the high school exit exam) are considered "non-graduates" in the computation of the graduation rate.

21. Is the dropout rate related to the cohort rate?
No. The federal definition for a dropout differs from a non-graduate and therefore the rates are not complementary. To be excused from the dropout rate a student can be still enrolled after 4 years, receive a GED, or finish high school with a certificate of completion (did not pass the comprehensive exam). None of these conditions are allowed in the graduation rate.

22. Is it possible that the 5-year rate can be lower than the 4-year rate?
Yes. For 4-year cohort members that transfer to another school during their final year, the time that they spend in the new school counts toward that school's rate. When the incoming student does not graduate at the end of their 5th year, the receiving school's non-graduate population grows and can cause their overall rate to decline. This is a unique feature of the Shared Accountability model that all schools attended by a student during the 5 year period must share responsibility for the student's outcome, regardless of whether the student succeeds or fails to graduate.

23. How are returning students under Graduate New Mexico treated in the cohort?
"Graduate New Mexico, It's Everybody's Business" is a state initiative that recruits dropouts to complete graduation requirements and receive a diploma. Some of these students left school many years before (15 or 20 years or more) and are returning adults and part-time students. The student's 4-year cohort membership was triggered by the year they were a first-time 9th grader in New Mexico public schools so their cohort will have already graduated. Moreover, these students do not qualify for the current cohort because they have already been counted as a non-graduate in prior rates. Success rates for Graduate New Mexico are reported through a separate mechanism.