Once again, there is a lot of buzz around graduation rates. The National Center for Education Statistics published the Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate for 2014-15: This is a series of tables that display the percentage of students from the original cohort who graduated in four years with a regular high school diploma.
Nationally, high school graduation rates stand at a record high 83.2%. Since the 2010-11 school year, when states, districts and schools began using this new common metric, the national graduation rate has increased by roughly 4 percentage points.
A Look at the Sub-Groups
Graduation rate varies by state and for specific sub-groups of students. The graduation rate for the 2014-2015 school year increased for all ethnic groups. They also increased for disabled students, ELLs, and students from low-income families. The graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students stands at 76.1% and at 65.1% for limited English proficient students. For students with disabilities, it is 64.6%. Asian Americans students have a 90.2% graduation rate, while white students are at 87.6%. They are followed by Hispanics at 77.8%, African-Americans at 74.6%, and Native Americans at 71.6%.
While gaps still exist, the growth for black, Hispanic, and American Indian/Alaskan Native students has outpaced the average for all students over the four-year period. The graduation rate for black students increased by 7.6%; rates for Hispanic students grew by 6.8%; for American Indian/Alaskan Native students, the rate increased by 6.6%.
Similar growth increases were seen for ELL (8.1%), special education (5.6%), and disadvantaged students (6.1%). Iowa has the highest graduation rate, 90.8% and the District of Columbia has the lowest at 68.5%. However, Iowa only raised its graduation rate by 0.3%, while D.C. raised its rate by 7.1%. Georgia’s graduation rate improved 6.3% and Alaska’s by 4.5%.
This is all good news, but graduation rates are not the best way to judge a school system’s success and definitely cannot be compared state-to-state. Each state sets its own graduation requirements (number of credits, required courses, etc.) and its own passing bar. Don’t get me wrong. I think getting more students to stick around through graduation represents a big step in the right direction. But American high schools still have a long way to go in graduating college- and career-ready students. More on that in my next column on Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants.
Join our Facebook group Principal Life for more ideas on how to transform your school.