U.S. high school graduation rates are on the rise

America’s schools just haven’t been up to par lately, falling behind on international PISA scores and failing to prepare students for a STEM-oriented economy. But there’s also some pretty good news. According to a new report from America’s Promise Alliance, a group founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, the national high school graduation rate surpassed 80% in 2012 and is on track to exceed 90% by 2020 if the trend continues.

The national rate now stands at 81%. This is a big deal.

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Being the First College Student in Your Family Isn’t a Ticket To Success

College is often referred to as the best four years of your life, but this glib phrase can mask the difficulties that many students, particularly first-generation college students, face when attempting to earn and pay for a degree: only 11 percent of first-generation, low-income college students receive a degree within six years of enrollment.

This data, provided by a Pell Institute Fact Sheet last updated in 2011, also reports that the degree attainment rate for students who are neither low-income nor first-generation is 54 percent. Both percentages suggest that much remains to be done in terms of preparing and supporting future and current college students. Often, the focus is centered on getting into college—why isn’t there the same level of discussion about the challenges that many students face in the pursuit of their degrees?

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Photo: Flickr/COD Newsroom

A student who passes ninth grade is almost four times more likely to graduate than one who doesn’t. … I’ve been arguing against silver bullets my whole career—but this is one,” says the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research’s Melissa Roderick, who has led research into the role of freshmen pass rates. “Failure is horrible; it’s overwhelming for every kind of kid. But a kid who passes is off to a good start in high school. And it turns out, if you keep children in front of teachers they actually learn.

A new report from the Rennie Center for Education Research and Policy suggests that dual-enrollment programs, where kids students classes simultaneously in high school and a local college, have proven especially successful at getting less affluent and first-generation students not only into college but also through it.

Other research from the American Institutes for Research supports the theory that students who enroll in early-college programs are more likely to enroll in college than their peers in traditional high school programs.

Could Enrolling in College While in High School Be the Secret to More Students Graduating?

Graduation Rates Increasing in American Schools

“The new NCES report is good news. After three decades of stagnation, the on-time graduation rate for high school students in the 2009-10 school year [78.2 percent] is the highest it’s been since at least 1974. It’s encouraging that the on-time graduation rate is up substantially from four years earlier. And it’s promising that high school graduation rates are up for all ethnic groups in 2010 – especially for Hispanics, whose graduation rate has jumped almost 10 points since 2006.
County Schools Improve Graduation Rates

A highschool in Indiana owes it increased graduation rate to a bonus period in which students get extra time to work with teachers.

“Our bonus period meets at 3 p.m. every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and it is unique,” Principal Doug Miller said. “Students have the opportunity to do additional work with teachers. Sometimes the teachers ask students to stay and other times the students will stay on their own accord.

The big thing is we have our full fleet of buses leave with kids when school dismisses and then we have eight buses return to take home the bonus period kids. That takes a commitment from administrators, teachers and students and we have seen our failure rates decrease every year since we started our bonus period. A decrease in failure rates leads to an increase in credits earned which leads to more students eligible for a diploma.”
Hokies trump Hoos in athlete graduation rates

From The Roanoke Times

The NCAA released its Graduation Success Rate data Tuesday, and Virginia Tech trumped Virginia in football and men’s basketball.

For Tech football, 79 percent of scholarship freshmen entering school from 2001-04 graduated within six years, compared with Virginia’s 68 percent.

In men’s basketball, Tech was at 86 percent compared with UVa’s 50 percent. Unlike federal graduation rates, the NCAA’s GSR formula does not count against a school’s rate when an athlete in good academic standing transfers elsewhere.

UVa’s other teams ranged from 64 percent (men’s soccer) to 100 percent.


Slashing Dropout Rate Key to Turnaround in Mass. District

Ms. Correa—a former Lawrence High School dropout who later earned a GED certificate and graduated from college—hunts down students like Mr. Ramos on a daily basis, using Twitter, Facebook, a car equipped with a GPS system, and the district’s robust student-data tracking system. Once she identifies those at risk of leaving, or makes contact with those who’ve already dropped out, Ms. Correa has frank discussions about what their futures are likely to hold without a diploma: poverty, unemployment, and single parenting.

Then she helps each of them craft a clear, customized path to a diploma. Some need flexible schedules to accommodate jobs and family commitments. Others need intense tutoring and extra time to catch up on missing credits. All of them need educators who know their circumstances and communicate constantly to keep them on track.

The effort mirrors a growing trend in some of the nation’s districts to find, and reconnect, out-of-school youths, and it’s integral to Lawrence’s larger, evolving strategy to make high school graduation the norm, not the exception.

1 in 5 Connecticut Students Does Not Graduate

Just two days before we said goodbye to 2011, the CT State Department of Education released new graduation data indicating that 1 in 5 CT students do not graduate high school within four years.  Among black and latino students, special education students and english language learners, the four year graduation rate is generally less than 65%.  

These new graduation rates use a formula far more accurate than the method previously used and, not surprisingly, graduation rates are lower than previously reported.  Check out this article in the CT Mirror for more information and read the CT SDE’s press release here

You can also click here to see how your district measures up or click here to download an excel spreadsheet where you can access data about your high school.


As education level increases, unemployment rates decrease.  These are simple facts.  (Source)

There are more than 1 million students in American public schools who, through no fault of their own, are homeless.  Not even a quarter of those students will graduate high school, and a fraction of them will start college; even less will graduate.

When your parents can’t afford a home, chances are they don’t have a college fund waiting for you.  As higher education costs increase and endowments shrink, many families have no choice but to finance college for their children, and the Plus loan is often funding a large chunk of any student’s educational expenses.

Plus loan regulation changes in 2011 have made these loans increasingly hard to secure.  As a direct result, bright homeless or poor kids who manage to get into college are unable to pay for it.   For the 2012-13 school year, almost 47% of Plus loan applications were denied.

We’re getting close to covering the Plus loan gap for James Ward’s entire education, which is so exciting, but there over a million other kids that need help, too.  We hope you’ll join us as we fight for better access to higher education so that kids like Jessica and James once were can find their own happy ending, and escape from poverty with education.


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This is my first post in one month! Since tomorrow is the first day of school, I’ve chosen this map showing the high school graduation rate in each U.S. state. States where the graduation is between 40% and 49% are in pink, between 50% and 59% in orange, between 60% and 69% in blue, between 70% and 79% in green, and between 80% and 89% in purple. The most interesting thing about this map are the extremes: Nevada and New Jersey. I personally cannot believe that Nevada’s graduation rate is 45.4%, almost nine percent less than the next state, New Mexico. I wonder why Nevada, which is completely surrounded by “average” Western states, is such an outlier. I am also interested that New Jersey has the highest graduation rate of any state, 83.3%. I wonder why this is and what other states can learn from New Jersey’s education system. It is also important to note that the Northeast and the Midwest have the highest rates in the country, while the South has the lowest of any region. This finding seems to fit with other indicators of prosperity and well-being in these areas of the country, including per capita income. It is my hope that graduation rates across the country rise over the coming years. Maybe someday a state will reach the 90% mark. If that happened, a new color would have to be added to the map!