The wider we spread the word
the greater the focus on our goals.
boilerplate image

Press Room

July 27, 2017

Most Recent Press Release:

New Alliance Report Uncovers Gaps in Access to College- and Career-Ready Diplomas

Nine States Demonstrate Importance of Compiling Full Data

WASHINGTON, DC—Of the nearly 100 different types of high school diplomas that are awarded across all fifty states and the District of Columbia, less than half prepare students for success in college and a career, according to a new report released today by the Alliance for Excellent Education. And while the national high school graduation rate is at an all-time high, the rate at which students earn these college- and career-ready (CCR) diplomas is substantially lower, especially among students from low-income families, students of color, and other traditionally underserved students. Findings from the report were presented during a July 27 webinar. Archived video from the webinar is available at

“Not all high school diplomas are created equal,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education. “Sadly, the students with the least opportunity who must overcome the greatest challenges are usually the ones receiving the substandard diploma, setting them up for a rude awakening when they enter college or the workforce.”

The Alliance report, Paper Thin? Why All High School Diplomas Are Not Created Equal, provides a state-by-state analysis of the different types of diplomas that states awarded to the Class of 2014 and evaluates whether each adequately prepares its recipient for college and a career.

According to the report, twenty-three states had multiple diploma options. Of those, only nine (Arkansas, California, Indiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Nevada, New York, Texas, and Virginia) offered at least one CCR diploma and tracked which students were earning which diploma. Based on data from these nine states, the Alliance report finds drastic differences between state-reported high school graduation rates and the percentage of students earning a CCR diploma. For example, Nevada posted a 70 percent high school graduation rate for the Class of 2014, but only 29.8 percent of graduates earned a CCR diploma.

“The nine states tracking which students earn which diplomas are to be commended for monitoring this information,” said Wise. “Additionally, the states that not only track data but make it publicly available by subgroup are identifying opportunities for improvement and offering transparency and vital information to parents and students.”

Traditionally underserved students are less likely to graduate with a CCR diploma than their peers, the report finds. A lesson on how to close gaps for traditionally underserved students comes from Arkansas, Indiana, and Texas, all of which require all students to pursue a CCR diploma. In these states, the gaps between the percentage of white students and traditionally underserved students who earn a CCR diploma were smaller. In Texas, for example, 86.1 percent of white students and 85.7 percent of Latino students earned a CCR diploma—a difference of only 0.4 percentage points. In Maryland, which offers a CCR diploma but does not require students to pursue it, the CCR gap between white students and African American students was more than 22 percentage points.

Among different student subgroups, gaps in earning CCR diplomas were largest for African American students, which reached as high as 33.9 percentage points, and students with disabilities, which was as high as 63.1 percentage points.

The report is careful to note that it is limited to state-level data. Because districts can set higher requirements for high school graduation than the state, the CCR graduation rates included in the report may undercount the actual percentage of students who graduate having met CCR standards. However, since few states track district high school graduation requirements, there is no way to know the degree to which districts are setting higher requirements than states.

The report conducts a deep dive in Indiana, which has been a leader in aligning high school graduation requirements to college and workforce expectations. Unlike most states, Indiana tracks high school graduation rates by diploma type, provides publicly available data on which students are earning which diploma, and reports the postsecondary outcomes of its graduates by diploma type.

As shown in the table below, only 4 percent of Indiana high school graduates who earned the most rigorous diplomas—the Core 40 Honors—needed remediation in college, compared to 59 percent who earned the general diploma. Additionally, 92 percent of the Core 40 Honors diploma recipients enrolled in college, compared to only 24 percent who earned the general diploma.

“When states do not require students to complete a CCR diploma at minimum, student outcomes are more likely to reflect outcomes seen among Indiana’s General Diploma graduates,” the report notes.

In a webinar this afternoon, Patrick McAlister, director of policy at the Indiana Department of Education, will discuss his state’s approach. He will be joined by report author, Monica Almond, senior associate of policy development and government relations at the Alliance for Excellent Education; Jeanne Fauci, executive director of the Center for Powerful Public Schools; Valerie Wilson, director of program on race, ethnicity, and the economy at the Economic Policy Institute; and Gov. Wise. More information on the webinar is available at

The report offers several federal, state, and local policy recommendations to help every state establish high school graduation requirements that are aligned with college and a career. They include the following:

  • States with CCR diplomas should make the CCR diploma the default diploma for all students.
  • States, school districts, and individual middle and high schools with multiple diploma options should track and publicly report the percentage of students earning each type of diploma and break out the data by student subgroup (low-income, African American, Latino, special education, etc.). Such data will enable parents and the public to see which diploma options best prepare students for postsecondary education.
  • School districts and middle and high schools should educate parents and students about the long-term postsecondary outcomes of students who select less rigorous diploma options.

“No parents want less for their children,” said Wise. “Still, large percentages of students—particularly traditionally underserved students—across many states are pursuing diplomas that are paper thin. It is imperative for the future success of these students and the U.S. economy that all students and parents understand the importance of a college- and career-ready track in high school. A high school diploma is no longer the finishing point—it must be the jumping off point for the additional education and training that students need to compete in the twenty-first century.”

Paper Thin? Why All High School Diplomas Are Not Created Equal is available at

To register for this afternoon’s webinar, visit

# # #

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC–based national policy, practice, and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring all students, particularly those traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship.

Categories: College & Career Readiness

More Press Releases:

Education Advocate to Congress: Success Under New Education Law Is in Jeopardy

July 18, 2017

The potential of the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to improve educational outcomes for all U.S. students could be at risk because of a lack of innovation and courage among states, combined with...

Future Ready Schools Announces New Program for School Principals

July 5, 2017

Future Ready Schools® (FRS)—led by the Alliance for Excellent Education—announced FRS Principals, the latest expansion of the FRS initiative that empowers principals to implement a vision for...

New Report Provides Education Leaders with School Interventions That Work

July 18, 2017

As state, district, and school leaders begin work under the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) to identify and intervene in low-performing schools and among under-achieving groups of students, a new...

See All Press Releases


Visit Source

May 31, 2016

Most Recent Op-Ed:

Bob Wise & Daniel Cardinali: As ESSA Frees Up Federal Funds, Districts Should Invest in America’s ‘Graduation Dividend’

Over the next few weeks, America should reach an important new milestone. Thanks to a lot of hard work by educators everywhere, high school graduation rates have inched up 1 percentage point every year since 2011, hitting a record 82 percent last year. That is a trend with huge implications for the U.S. economy: Another 1-point gain by the Class of 2016 likely will add approximately $742 million to the gross domestic product by the midpoint of those graduates’ careers, according to the Alliance for Excellent Education.

Categories: Uncategorized

Visit Source

May 31, 2016

More Op-Eds:

Bob Wise & John Gomperts: Six Ways for State Governors to Help Raise the Nation’s High School Graduation Rate

Visit Source

April 7, 2016

Spurred on by increased federal oversight and hard work by teachers, parents and students, the number of U.S. high school dropouts has decreased – falling to 750,000 in 2012 from 1 million in 2008....

Robert Rothman: Proposed education bill clears U.S. House; would give states more power, feds less

Visit Source

December 3, 2015

This week’s U.S. House passage of the Every Student Succeeds Act, a reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, makes it clear: If you want to see education policy in the next...

See All Op-Eds

Alliance in the News

Education Week August 1, 2017

Most Recent News Story:

Who Gets Hurt When High School Diplomas Are Not Created Equal?

One of the uncomfortable truths of the high school graduation business is that not all diplomas are created equal. Some are strong, and signify that students are well prepared for good jobs or postsecondary schooling. Others are weak, and leave students unprepared to do much of anything.

Categories: College & Career Readiness, High School Graduation Rates
Education Week August 1, 2017

More News Stories:

California Proposes Minimal Sanctions for Low Participation in State Tests


July 20, 2017

In passing a new school accountability law — the Every Student Succeeds Act — Congress gave states more latitude to decide how to use federal education funding, particularly in improving schools serving low-income students and English learners. What hasn’t changed is the requirement for nearly all students to take annual standardized tests — and for states to see that schools and districts comply.

‘I don’t know how to lead for equity; that was not part of my program’

Education Dive

June 30, 2017

Equity took center stage in the day two conversations at the Education Commission of the States National Forum on Education Policy Thursday. One resonant statement reflected how principal preparation programs didn't include equity components, meaning that now leaders are struggling to approach their work through an equity lens.

Rethinking High School: What Do Students Need?

The Educated Reporter

July 31, 2017

Students at the MC2 STEM High School in Cleveland don’t sit through lectures all day. They learn through projects, like designing and building above-ground gardens, calculating the powers of a comic book superhero or constructing a recording studio to record a song.

House Lawmakers Cast a Critical Eye on ESSA Oversight

Education Week

July 18, 2017

At a House education committee hearing, which DeVos didn't attend, lawmakers from both sides of the aisle Tuesday expressed concern about the consistency of feedback from the U.S. Department of Education to states about ESSA plans.

See All News Stories
Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.