http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/20/e...&ex=1206676800&partner=MYWAY&pagewanted=print March 20, 2008 Statesâ€™ Data Obscure How Few Finish High School By SAM DILLON JACKSON, Miss. â€” When it comes to high school graduation rates, Mississippi keeps two sets of books. One team of statisticians working at the state education headquarters here recently calculated the official graduation rate at a respectable 87 percent, which Mississippi reported to Washington. But in another office piled with computer printouts, a second team of number crunchers came up with a different rate: a more sobering 63 percent. The state schools superintendent, Hank Bounds, says the lower rate is more accurate and uses it in a campaign to combat a dropout crisis. â€śWe were losing about 13,000 dropouts a year, but publishing reports that said we had graduation rate percentages in the mid-80s,â€ť Mr. Bounds said. â€śMathematically, that just doesnâ€™t work out.â€ť Like Mississippi, many states use an inflated graduation rate for federal reporting requirements under the No Child Left Behind law and a different one at home. 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.