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DIPLOMAS COUNT: Report Finds that 1.23 Million Students Will Fail to Graduate in 2008

“With the graduation rate rising less than one percentage point annually in recent years, we still have much work to do.”

An estimated 1.23 million students, or almost 30 percent of the class of 2008, will not graduate with their peers, according to a new report from Education Week. Diplomas Count 2008: School to College: Can State P–16 Councils Ease the Transition? pegs the national graduation rate at 71 percent but finds that several states have graduation rates lower than 60 percent.

“The nation and many states face severe challenges in graduating students from high school,” said Editorial Projects in Education Research Center Director Christopher B. Swanson, who conducted the graduation rate analysis. “With the graduation rate rising less than one percentage point annually in recent years, we still have much work to do.”

Nationwide, the report finds that about 71 percent of ninth graders earn a diploma four years later. And while five states had graduation rates higher than 80 percent, five states and the District of Columbia (57.6 percent) had graduation rates lower than 60 percent, as shown in the table below.

States with the Highest Graduation Rates

States with the Lowest Graduation Rates

State Graduation Rate State Graduation Rate

New Jersey

New Mexico


South Carolina



The report also finds that Hispanic (57.8 percent), African American (55.3 percent), and Native American students (50.6 percent) graduate at significantly lower rates than Asian American (81.3 percent) and white students (77.6 percent). In some states, the graduation rate gaps between white students and African American and Hispanic students were over 40 percent. For example, in South Dakota and Alaska, the Hispanic graduation rate trailed the white graduation rate by 61.3 percent and 50 percent, respectively. In Minnesota and South Dakota, African Americans graduated at rates 44.5 percent and 42.3 percent, respectively, lower than white students.

In addition to providing graduation rates by state, Diplomas Count also includes graduation rates by school district and, for the first time, graduation rates for each of the 435 Congressional districts in the nation. At the high end, three Congressional districts in New Jersey boast graduation rates over 92 percent, whereas one district in Louisiana and one in New York have graduation rates lower than 30 percent. Overall, most of the Congressional districts with graduation rates lower than 65 percent are located in the Southeast and Southwest.

The report also includes a special analysis of P–16 councils, noting that these councils and their variants are “one of the most popular vehicles for strengthening the connections between public schools and higher education.” It finds that forty P–16 councils have been formed in thirty-eight states and provides case studies of councils in Arizona, Kentucky, and Rhode Island. The report also examines state policies in three key areas: definitions of college and workforce readiness, high school completion credentials, and exit exams.

View the Complete Report, with access to graduation briefs for each state and EdWeek maps, allowing users to zoom in on each of the nation’s schools and districts.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.