For the first time, the U.S. high school graduation rate tops 80 percent, report finds

April 28, 2014

Low-income student graduation rates are below 80 percent in 41 states. Graduation rates for all other students are below 80 percent in just seven states. (America’s Promise Alliance)

For the first time in U.S. history, the national high school graduation rate surpassed 80 percent in 2012, according to a new report.

If the rate of improvement over the past few years is maintained, the country would see a 90 percent rate by 2020, meeting the goal set by America’s Promise Alliance, the group founded by former secretary of state Colin Powell that produced the report with other organizations.

The national rate has risen an average 1.3 percentage points annually since 2006. Hispanic students have seen graduation rates grow 15 percentage points since then, while graduation rates for African Americans rose nine percentage points. Still, they lag behind their white counterparts. Whites have an 85 percent graduation rate, compared to 76 percent for Hispanics and 68 percent for blacks.


National graduation rate. (America’s Promise Alliance)

In most states, reaching that 90 percent goal means focusing on improvements among low-income students and those with disabilities, the report finds.

The group makes a handful of state policy recommendations, including encouraging college- and career-readiness. For example, they argue that other states should look to a Texas policy that gives districts financial incentives to recover dropouts. Low-income students in Texas and Indiana graduate at a rate of 85 percent, higher than anywhere else in the nation. Just six states can boast low-income graduation rates at or above 80 percent.

As the animation at the top of this post shows, low-income student graduation rates are below 80 percent in 41 states. Graduation rates for all other students are below 80 percent in just seven states. Fourteen states have already reached 90 percent graduation rates for the middle- and high-income students. Ten more are very close. Improvements in California will be critical to reaching the national goal, too, the report finds. The Golden State is home to 14 percent of American students and exactly one in five low-income students.


Graduation rate by income in California. (America’s Promise Alliance)
Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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