New England Secondary School Consortium

Common Data Project


Beginning in 2009, the five state education agencies (SEAs) participating in the New England Secondary School Consortium have been collecting, calculating, and reporting graduation rates, dropout rates, and postsecondary-enrollment and -persistence rates using consistent procedures and methodologies developed by a regional team of data specialists from the departments and agencies of education in Connecticut, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. To our knowledge, the New England Secondary School Consortium’s Common Data Project is the first initiative of its kind in the United States. 

Recognizing the critical importance of high-quality data to effective school improvement, our five participating states decided to proactively address data quality, reliability, and comparability, rather than waiting for an outside entity to establish new guidance and regulations.

To promote more accurate and reliable data comparability across the five Consortium member states, the Common Data Project develops and implements standardized procedures designed to eliminate unwanted variance that may result from divergent data systems, the misinterpretation of agreed-upon rules, or computational errors. The Data Project has also created a series of quality control mechanisms that further improve the reliability and comparability of state-reported data.


  1. Data specialists from the participating SEAs, along with representatives from higher education and other data experts, meet several times throughout the year to discuss best practices, refine agreements, and coordinate the collection and reporting of data. Each participating SEA shares and discusses its data practices with other SEAs, and several refinements of in-state data procedures have resulted from lessons learned from other states.

  2. All five states use common metrics, procedures, and rules when compiling, calculating, and reporting data. A full description of these procedures can be found in the Common Data Project 2017 Procedural Guidebook. The goal is continual improvement of data reliability and comparability across the region.

  3. The common procedures and rules are published under a Creative Commons license, which allows for the free use of all content, and other SEAs and educational organizations are encouraged to use and adapt our work.

  4. Each year, the Consortium produces a comprehensive report on graduation rates, dropout rates, and postsecondary enrollments and persistence rates for each of the five states. The Consortium, and its participating SEAs and partners, use these annual reports to help evaluate the impact of state policies and initiatives designed to improve secondary schools and student performance.

  5. Each year, the five SEAs publish the Consortium metrics on their websites, making the data available to the educators, policy makers, and the public.

  6. The common data procedures and metrics are compliant with all state and federal rules, regulations, and guidance related to data quality and reporting.

  7. The common-data reporting is used to track statewide and regional improvements in school and student-subgroup performance within and across states. The comparable data set—in place since the baseline year of 2009—allows for more reliable cross-state comparisons.


  1. Common Metrics: The Common Data Project has produced a set of common formulas that are used to calculate secondary graduation rates, secondary dropout rates, and postsecondary-enrollment, -persistence, and -completion rates.
  2. Common rules: All five departments of education follow the same “business rules” and procedures when collecting, calculating, and reporting common data to improve consistency, comparability, and quality.
  3. Common definitions: Each variable in the common regional data set is determined using consistently applied definitions. For example, all five departments of education follow the same definitions for economically disadvantaged students, English-language learners, students with disabilities, and other student subgroups.
  4. Common reporting windows: All five departments of education follow common data-collection and data-reporting timelines. Since most large-scale databases are continually updated, common reporting windows improve the consistency and comparability of multistate data sets.
  5. Common quality-control procedures: The Common Data Project uses both internal (state-by-state controls) and external (third-party coordination and auditing) as part of its common quality-control framework. The redundant, multistage protocol is designed to improve data quality throughout the collection, calculation, and reporting cycle.


The three Common Data Project annual reports below summarize the first, second, and third years of reporting on the four statewide performance indicators developed and adopted by the New England Secondary School Consortium. The data was collected by the five participating SEAs and the reports were prepared by the Great Schools Partnership in collaboration with Dr. J.P. Beaudoin of Research In Action, Inc. A selection of charts from the report have been published below.

  1. 2017 Annual Report: School Year 2015-2016
  2. 2016 Annual Report: School Year 2014-2015
  3. 2015 Annual Report: School Year 2013–2014
  4. 2014 Annual Report: School Year 2012–2013
  5. 2013 Annual Report: School Year 2011–2012

Graduation Rates: Eight-Year Trend


Major Findings
  • Graduation rates have remained relatively stable for the past three years, in contrast to the notable increases in high school graduation that occurred between 2009 and 2014.
  • Since 2009, the NESSC median state high school graduation rate has increased by approximately 7 percentage points. The largest change has been seen in Rhode Island (9.5 percentage points), followed by Connecticut (8.1 percentage points).
  • National graduation rates have demonstrated a gradual upward trend since 2009.

*NOTE: The 2009 New Hampshire data were estimated. The 2009 Connecticut data may not be comparable with previous years

Dropout Rates: Eight-Year Trend

Major Findings
  • All member states have demonstrated an overall decrease in dropout rates since the baseline year (2009). This downward trend reflects that observed at the national level.
  • Only Connecticut reported a decrease in dropout rates from the prior year.
  • Since 2009, the NESSC median state high school dropout rate has decreased by 4.5 percentage points. Connecticut, Maine, and New Hampshire have all experienced decreases of over 6 percentage points.
  • The sustained decrease in dropout rates is particularly notable because many NESSC states have worked to implement more rigorous graduation requirements since 2009, raising expectations for all students.

*NOTE: The 2009 New Hampshire data were estimated.

2016 College-Enrollment Rates

Major Findings
  • The college-enrollment rates varied by approximately 16 percentage points across member states. The median state rate was 59.2 percent and the highest reported rate was 68.1 percent (Connecticut).

  • No state reached the Consortium’s long-term goal of 80 percent college-enrollment.

  • The data indicate that more than 25 percent of high school graduates in our region do not immediately enroll in post-secondary education.

*NOTE: Only data from students who enroll in college immediately after graduating from high school are included in this section. All college-enrollment data come from the National Student Clearinghouse (StudentTracker for High Schools), which collects enrollment data from approximately 98 percent of  all postsecondary student enrolled in public and private institutions in the United States. While this captures the majority of college enrollments, it may not include vocational, military, and international institutions or apprenticeship programs.

College-Persistence Rates

Major Findings
  • The college-persistence rate varied by approximately 9 percentage points across member states.

  • The highest reported college-persistence rate was 84.1 percent (Connecticut).

  • Connecticut was the only state to report a college-persistence rate above the Consortium’s long-term goal of 80 percent.

  • Nationally, four-year institutions had overall retention rates of 80 percent in 2013, while two-year institutions had retention rates of 60 percent.

*NOTE: The data in this section are for students who entered college in 2014 and remained enrolled for three consecutive semesters. This indicator combined information from two-year and four-year institutions.

College Completion Rates

Major Findings
  • The college-completion rate varied by 15 percentage points across member states.

  • The highest reported college-completion rate was 68.5 percent (Vermont).

  • No state reached the Consortium’s long-term goal of 80 percent college completion.

*NOTE: The data in this section reflect college completion by students who entered college in 2010 and graduated within six years. This indicator combined information from two-year and four-year institutions.