Report Says U.S. Falling Off Track for 90% Graduation Rate

Even though the United States recently recorded a record 82.3% percent graduation rate, the gain has slowed down. The U.S. is no longer on track to reach a 90% graduation rate by 2020. The new report Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates sheds light on the states and populations that need extra support to stay in school and obtain their degree.

“Many of these schools exist to serve a vulnerable student population, and therefore deal with significant challenges,” said Robert Balfanz, research scientist and co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education, in a press release. “That’s why it’s so important that educators identify struggling students at the beginning of their high school careers and provide the things all students need to be successful, including the chance to build relationships with caring adults, strong and tailored instruction, and opportunities to engage in learning experiences that connect school to life.”

Highlights

  • Sixteen states had graduation rates below 70 percent for low-income or Black students, and 11 states had graduation rates below 70 percent for Hispanic/Latino students.
  • Thirty-five states graduated less than 70 percent of English Language Learners, and 33 had graduation rates below 70 percent for students with disabilities.
  • Nearly half of 2014 graduates came from low-income families, but only 74.6 percent of all low-income students graduated compared to 89 percent of non-low-income students.
  • Of the 47 states reporting adjusted graduation rates since 2011, Iowa became the first state to reach 90 percent, and 20 other states are on pace to reach a 90 percent graduation rate. Five of these on-pace states – Nebraska, New Jersey, New Hampshire, Texas, and Wisconsin – are within two percentage points of the goal.
  • Twenty-one remaining states are currently off track to reaching 90 percent by 2020. Of these states, most started with graduation rates in the 60s and 70s in 2011, and have been unable to meet the higher rate of growth needed to get them to the 90 percent mark.
  • Twenty-six percent of low-graduation-rate high schools were charter schools and 12 percent of non-graduates came from charter schools.
  • Virtual schools made up seven percent of low-graduation-rate high schools and produced four percent of non-graduates; however, roughly 87 percent of virtual schools were low-graduation-rate high schools in 2014.

Policy recommendations focus not only on improving data collection but also on creating evidence-based plans to help both schools and students that have fallen off track.

Read Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates, Civic Enterprise Everyone Graduates Center at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University (2016)

 

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Education Policy