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U.S. Department of Education Releases State-By-State High School Graduation Rates

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“By using this new measure, states will be more honest in holding schools accountable and ensuring that students succeed.”

On November 26, the U.S. Department of Education released four-year high school graduation rates for the Class of 2011 in forty-seven states1 and the District of Columbia, revealing large graduation gaps between white students and students of color, as well as other student subgroups. The report marks the first time that states used a common, rigorous measure to determine high school graduation rates.

“By using this new measure, states will be more honest in holding schools accountable and ensuring that students succeed,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “Ultimately, these data will help states target support to ensure more students graduate on time, college and career ready.”

Iowa reported the highest overall graduation rate (88 percent), followed by Vermont (87 percent) and Wisconsin (87 percent). At the other end of the scale, the District of Columbia (59 percent), Nevada (62 percent), New Mexico (63 percent) reported the lowest graduation rates. Only two states (Iowa and Kansas) reported graduation rates at 70 percent or higher for each of the eleven student subgroups represented in the report.2 But even the highest-performing states have significant graduation gaps among different student subgroups. For example, Wisconsin reported a 91 percent graduation rate for white students, compared to a 64 percent graduation rate for black students.

According to the press release from the U.S. Department of Education that accompanied the report, the varying methods formerly used by states to report graduation rates made comparisons between states unreliable, while the new, common metric can be used by states, districts, and schools to promote greater accountability and to develop strategies that will reduce dropout rates and increase high school graduation rates in schools nationwide.

1 Data for Idaho, Kentucky, and Oklahoma was not included in the report.

2 Student subgroups represented in the report are American/Indian/Alaska Native or Native American; Asian/Pacific Islander; black (not Hispanic) or African American; Hispanic/Latino; multicultural or multiethnic or multiracial; white (not Hispanic) or Caucasian; children with disabilities; limited English proficient students; economically disadvantaged students; Asian; and Native Hawaiian/other Pacific Islander or Pacific Islander.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.