Many states use an inflated graduation rate for federal reporting requirements under the No Child Left Behind law and a different one at home, reports the New York Times. As a result, researchers say, federal figures obscure a dropout epidemic so severe that only about 70 percent of the one million American students who start ninth grade each year graduate four years later. California, for example, sends to Washington an official graduation rate of 83 percent but reports an estimated 67 percent on a state web site. Delaware reported 84 percent to the federal government but publicized four lower rates at home. The multiple rates have many causes. Some states have long obscured their real numbers to avoid embarrassment. Others have only recently developed data-tracking systems that allow them to follow dropouts more accurately. The No Child law is also at fault. The law set ambitious goals, enforced through sanctions, to make every student proficient in math and reading. But it established no national school completion goals…

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