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 2016 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.

  8. A comprehensive “college-readiness index” that takes into account academic, socioeconomic, and behavioral data is currently under development. The Annenberg Institute for School Reform at Brown University and the Center for Education Policy, Applied Research, and Evaluation at the University of Southern Maine have been collaborating on the development of the index. Any further development is contingent on securing funding.


  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 Dr. J.P. Beaudoin of Research In Action, Inc. A selection of charts from the report have been published below.

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

Graduation Rate
Major Findings
  • All member states demonstrated graduation rate improvements since the baseline year (2009).
  • Since 2009, the median change rate was approximately 7.1 percentage points and the largest change rate was 7.9 percentage points (Connecticut).
  • All states are on a trajectory to reach or exceed the 90.0 percent goal within the next four years.
  • National graduation rates have been trending upward since 2009.
*NOTE: The 2009 New Hampshire data were estimated. The 2009 Connecticut data may not be comparable with previous years


Dropout RateMajor Findings
  • All member states have demonstrated a decrease in dropout rates since the baseline year (2009). This downward trend reflects those observed at the national level.
  • Two states, Vermont and Connecticut, have dropout rates that have increased from the prior year.
  • The median change rate was approximately -3.5 percentage points; and the largest change rate was -7.1 percentage points (New Hampshire).
  • Most states will need more than five years to reach the long-term goal of less than 1.0 percent.

*NOTE: The 2009 New Hampshire data were estimated.


College EnrollmentMajor Findings
  • The state college-enrollment rates had a range of approximately 13.8 percentage points. The median state rate was 60.7 percent and the highest reported rate was 67.0 percent (Connecticut).
  • No state rates reached the long-term goal of 80.0 percent; however, one state (Connecticut) exceeded the national rate of 661 percent.
  • The data suggests more than 25% of all high school graduates 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 93 percent of the College institutions that participate in Title IV Student Loans. While this captures the majority of College enrollments in the United States, it may not include many trace, vocational, military, and international institutions or apprenticeship programs.


College PersistenceMajor Findings
  • State college-persistence rates had a range of approximately 17.3 percentage points.
  • The median state rate was 81.9 percent and the highest reported rate was 89.4 percent (Vermont).
  • Three state rates (Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Vermont) were above 80.0 percent.
  • As a general reference nationally, 4-year institutions had overall retention rates of 80.0 percent in 2013, while 2-year institutions had retention rates of 60 percent.

*NOTE: The data in this section are lagged to allow sufficient time for first-time freshmen to attend college for three semesters. Further, this indicator combined information from 2-year and 4-year institutions. 


College CompletionMajor Findings
  • State college-completion rates had a range of approximately 16.1 percentage points.
  • The median state rate was 62.9 percent and the highest reported rate was 65.8 percent (Vermont).
  • No state rate was above the long-term goal of 80.0 percent.

*NOTE: The data in this section are lagged six years to allow sufficient time for first-time freshmen to attend and complete college. Further, this indicator combined information from 2-year and 4-year colleges.