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High School Graduation Rate Hits New High, But Concerns Remain; How Does Your State Fare?


The nation’s high school graduation rate hit a new all-time high of 84.6 percent and graduation rates for historically underserved students continue to rise, according to data released last week by the U.S. Department of Education. However, the size of the graduation rate increase was much smaller than in previous years and large gaps continue to exist between student groups.

The four organizations leading the GradNation campaign to increase the high school graduation rate to 90 percent—America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education, and the Alliance for Excellent Education—said the new graduation rate data should not only serve as a wake-up call for the nation, but should prompt leaders across the nation to act.

“The country is now significantly off pace to reaching the national goal of a 90 percent on-time high school graduation rate by 2020,” said John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises. “We have made great progress over the past decade, but we are losing momentum and urgently need to rededicate ourselves to finish the job.”

As shown in the table below, graduation rates for black students, limited English proficient students, and students with disabilities have increased the most over the last five years. Still, graduation rates for these and other historically underserved students still lag those of Asian and white students by as much as 20 percentage points. (Click on the table below for a larger image).


“We must take a deeper look at who is not graduating and whether states are holding themselves accountable for equitable progress across student subgroups,” said John Gomperts, CEO and President of America’s Promise Alliance. “The new federal data shows graduation rate improvement among students of color, students with disabilities, and low-income students—and this is to be celebrated – but these young people are still too far behind their peers.”

Among individual states, Iowa (91 percent) and New Jersey (90.5) are the only two states with graduation rates above 90 percent while the rates in New Mexico (71.1 percent) and the District of Columbia are below 75 percent. (Click on the table below for a larger version.)


Like at the national level, graduation rates for historically underserved students frequently lag those of Asian and white students, even among states with high overall graduation rates. For example, Wisconsin has the eleventh-highest overall graduation rate (88.6 percent) but the second-lowest graduation rate for black students (67.0 percent).

Wondering how your state fares? You can see the overall graduation rates, as well as the graduation rates for different groups of students at