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.