TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — High school graduation rates are lower in many New Jersey school districts because of a switch in the way the state computes dropouts, according to state education officials.

The state released new rates for all public high schools on Tuesday, a day after announcing it was changing the way it calculates the graduation rate.

Officials say the new calculation is more accurate and useful — and complies with federal standards. Schools will now use more sophisticated records to determine whether students who begin 9th grade but do not graduate four years later have dropped out, transferred or died.

The statewide graduation rate under the old formula last year would have been 95 percent. Under the new one, it’s 83 percent.

Education officials, though, caution that the rates should not be compared because different methods are used to get them.

Many districts still have graduation rates well above 90 percent, but a handful had graduation rates under 50 percent by the new formula.

“We should approach these results with both confidence and humility,” said Christopher Cerf, the state’s acting education commissioner. “We continue to be among the leaders in the nation, but we can still do more to make sure every child, regardless of Zip code, has an equal opportunity in life.”

(© Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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