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DIPLOMAS COUNT: National High School Graduation Rate Highest Since 1973, Finds Annual Education Week/Editorial Projects in Education Report

“A decade ago, as concerns about the nation’s graduation rate were just starting to gain public attention, only two-thirds of U.S. students were finishing high school with a diploma,” said Christopher B. Swanson

The national high school graduation rate reached 74.7 percent for the Class of 2010, an increase of 7.9 percentage points since 2000 and the highest percentage since 1973, according to the annual Diplomas Count report from Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. This year’s report, Second Chances: Turning Dropouts Into Graduates, projects that although more than 1 million students will fail to graduate from high school this year, there are 96,000 fewer dropouts compared to last year.

“A decade ago, as concerns about the nation’s graduation rate were just starting to gain public attention, only two-thirds of U.S. students were finishing high school with a diploma,” said Christopher B. Swanson, vice president of Editorial Projects in Education, the nonprofit organization that publishes Education Week. “Now, the graduation rate for America’s public schools stands just shy of 75 percent. At the current pace of improvement, the graduation rate could reach an all-time high within the next few years.”


The report credits much of the overall improvement to gains among students of color. According to the report, the high school graduation rate for Latino students grew by 16 percentage points to 68.1 percent between 2000 and 2010; the rate for black students rose by 13 percentage points to 61.7 percent. As a result, the gap between graduation rates for white and Latino students was cut in half in the last decade while the black-white gap declined by nearly 30 percent. Still, graduation rates for Latino and black students continue to trail those of Asian (81.1 percent) and white students (79.6 percent), even as increases for the latter two groups have slowed. The graduation rate for Native American students improved only slightly since 2000 and actually decreased since 2008.

Thirteen states had high school graduation rates of at least 80 percent while six states’ rates were below 66 percent.



States showing the greatest improvements from 2000 to 2010 were Tennessee, where its graduation rate rose 31.5 percentage points (48.8 percent to 80.3 percent), and Florida, which increased its rate by 23.0 percentage points (49.9 percent to 72.9 percent).

The report also tracks high school graduation rates in the nation’s fifty largest school districts, ranking Fairfax County (VA) first with a graduation rate of 85 percent, followed closely by Baltimore (MD) and Montgomery County (MD) with 84 percent. Detroit, with a graduation rate of less than 50 percent, ranks last.

The graduation rates included in the report are based on Swanson’s Cumulative Promotion Index (CPI), which includes data from three grade-to-grade promotions (9 to 10, 10 to 11, and 11 to 12), as well as the number of students who ultimately earn a diploma. It represents the percentage of public high school freshmen who complete high school on time with a regular diploma. The CPI is not as accurate as a four-year cohort rate, which tracks individual students throughout their high school career, but because the cohort rate has only been publically reported at the state level, the CPI gives valuable insight into the national high school graduation rate, as well as graduation rates for individual school districts.

In addition to providing the latest high school graduation rates, the report investigates interventions that target out-of-school youth and includes an analysis of the nation’s “recoverable” youth, which it defines as individuals between the ages of sixteen and twenty-one who are not in school and who have not completed a high school education. It estimates that there are 1.8 million recoverable youth nationwide.

The complete report is available at

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.