On-Time Graduation Rate

Beginning with the students who entered the ninth grade in 2004-05, Virginia began tracking individual students over the four years of a traditional high school career to determine the percentage who graduate on time. The On-Time Graduation Rate was prompted by a 2005 National Governors Association (NGA) task force report that recommended all states adopt a graduation rate to measure on-time graduation, with most students expected to earn a diploma in four years.

The Virginia On-Time Graduation Rate is calculated this way: The number of students who earned a diploma in 2008 will be divided by the number of students who entered the ninth grade for the first time in 2004-05 (plus transfers in and minus transfers out). To help our community understand the significance of the On-Time Graduation Rate, a question and answer fact sheet has been developed.

Question and Answer Fact Sheet

How many different ways does the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) calculate graduation rates?

The VDOE reports the Virginia On-Time Graduation Rate, the Graduation & Completion Index, the Virginia Federal Graduation Indicator and the Virginia Unadjusted Graduation Rate.


What is different about the On-Time method of calculation versus the other ways the state calculates graduation rates?

The VDOE has created a Graduation Rates & Indicators document that details how each of the graduation rates are calculated. Each method has its own set of rules for determining which students are included in the calculation and what types of diplomas, GEDs or completion certificates are included.


Why did the nation’s governors feel an on-time graduation rate was important? What are the benefits of reporting graduation rates this way?

An On-Time Graduation Rate provides a more accurate picture of what happens to high school students as they move toward graduation. It provides educators and policy makers with a better understanding of how their states’ school districts are performing in the all-important area of preparing students for college or the world of work. This is particularly important because traditionally graduation rates have been built on estimates or by the simplistic method of counting ninth graders and four years later counting graduating seniors.


Why couldn’t Virginia provide the On-Time Graduation rate in the past?

Prior to 2004-05, Virginia did not have a system in place that would allow for students to be tracked throughout his or her PK-12 career. In 2004-05, Virginia implemented the Educational Information Management System (EIMS) to follow students through its public schools by assigning a unique number to every student. This number, known as a "state-testing identifier," stays with the student throughout his or her PK-12 career. This unique identifier allowed the state to link the records of students who entered the ninth grade the first time to their records four years later to calculate the On-Time Graduation rate. The graduating class of 2008 was the first high school cohort for which there was four years of longitudinal data and an On-Time Graduation rate was reported.


What about students who take longer than four years to graduate?

The On-Time Graduation Rate recognizes that under state and federal law, students with disabilities and limited English proficiency may take longer than the typical four years to graduate. Therefore, under the new formula they can be factored into the On-Time Graduation Rate for the year in which they graduate.

However, students, other than those with disabilities or limited English proficiency (LEP), who are retained sometime along the four-year time period will not count as an on-time graduate.


How are students who graduate early included in the Virginia On-Time Graduation Rate?

Students who graduate early are counted as on-time graduates in the cohort of students with whom they would have graduated in the typical four-year time frame.