The high school graduation rate across the United States reached an all-time high of 81% for the 2012-13 school year, according to new data from the Department of Education. The rate is the highest the nation has achieved since a new way to calculate graduation rates was created five years ago.
A new system began to be used in 2010 across the country called the adjusted cohort graduation rate. The method measures the number of students from the original cohort to graduate with a diploma within four years. Transfer students are added into the cohort and those who transfer to another state or country, or die, are subtracted.
Prior to this, different methods were used across the states, making a comparison of graduation rates unreliable. The more accurate method allows states to provide support where it is needed in order to ensure their students graduate on time and ready for college.
“America’s students have achieved another record-setting milestone,” Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. “We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country, and these improvements are thanks to the hard work of teachers, principals, students and families.”
Upon releasing the data, the department gave credit to a multitude of federal initiatives such as the Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and School Improvement Grants programs for their ability to close achievement and opportunity gaps across the nation. In addition, the department would like to see the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, currently known as No Child Left Behind, overhauled to become “a law that not only ensures students are prepared for college, careers and life, but also delivers on the promise of equity and real opportunity for every child.”
Duncan announced plans for an update for the No Child Left Behind bill in January, including a stronger focus on high-quality preschool programs, additional resources for K-12 schools, and reducing the number of duplicate tests taken at the state and local levels. Duncan said he believed that doing all this would better prepare students for college and the workforce, writes Allie Bidwell for US News.
According to the new data, over half of all states currently have a graduation rate above the national average, with Iowa coming in at the top with 90%. The District of Columbia had the lowest rate at 62%.
John Gomperts, president and CEO of America’s Promise Alliance, a group working to see the the national graduation rate reach 90% by 2020, said the current increase has allowed around 2 million additional students to graduate high school with a diploma.
“When schools are held accountable and students are given support to help them stay in school and on track, real progress is possible,” Gomperts said in a statement. “However, much work remains. Looking forward, we will focus on what more can be done so that all young people have the foundation they need to succeed in school and life.”