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READY FOR WHAT?: New Education Week Report Examines Graduation Rates, Relationship Between Education and Income

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“At both national and state levels, our research shows that a high school diploma alone is not sufficient for students to access the jobs that will provide a real future and to thrive in our economy,” said Editorial Projects in Education Research Center Director Christopher B. Swanson

An estimated 1.23 million students, or about 30 percent of the Class of 2007, will not graduate with their classmates, according to a new report from Education Week. The report, Diplomas Count: Ready for What? Preparing for College, Careers, and Life After High School, also finds that those students who do graduate from high school will need at least some college in order to have access to decent-paying jobs.

“At both national and state levels, our research shows that a high school diploma alone is not sufficient for students to access the jobs that will provide a real future and to thrive in our economy,” said Editorial Projects in Education Research Center Director Christopher B. Swanson, who conducted the analysis.

Using information from a U.S. Department of Labor database that classifies jobs into five “zones” by education, training, and experience requirements, combined with data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the analysis shows the proportion of adults nationally and in each state who hold occupations in various job zones, their median earnings, and their average education levels.

For example, in job zone 3, which includes dental hygienists, electricians, and preschool teachers, among others, the median income is $35,672 annually. In that job zone, 37 percent of workers have some college education and another 26 percent have a bachelor’s degree. Conversely, in job zone 1, where 69 percent of individuals have a high school diploma or less, the average income is $12,638. Not only will individuals with some college earn more money, but they will also enjoy more job security. The report finds that the average adult with some postsecondary education has a 68 percent chance of being steadily employed versus only 58 percent for a high school dropout.

The report also examines graduation rates both nationally and at the state level. For the nation, only 69.9 percent of high school students receive their high school diploma on time. For minority students, that number is even lower, with only 57.8 percent of Hispanics, 53.4 percent of African Americans, and 49.3 percent of American Indians graduating on time, compared to 76.2 percent for white students and 80.2 percent for Asian Americans.

At the state level, Utah, at 83.8 percent, and New Jersey, at 82.5 percent, had the highest graduation rates in the nation. On the other end of the spectrum, South Carolina, at 53.8 percent, and Nevada, at 54 percent, had the lowest graduation rates.

The report also pinpoints exactly when students drop out of the pipeline, finding that 35 percent of students fail to make the transition from ninth grade to tenth grade. Additionally, 27 percent are lost in tenth grade, 19 percent in eleventh grade, and 19 percent in twelfth grade. In some states (Delaware, Florida, and Texas), over half of the students who drop out do so between the ninth and tenth grades.

In conjunction with the report, Education Week also launched a new mapping tool that allows individuals to find graduation rates for every school district in the country. In addition, users can download a special report for a particular school district that includes detailed information on where students are lost from the high school pipeline.

The complete report and a link to the online mapping tool are available at http://www.edweek.org/ew/toc/2007/06/12/index.html.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.