The US Department of Education has released information showing that states are continuing to increase high school graduation rates and are narrowing the gap for traditionally under-served communities such as those who are low-income. minority students, students with disabilities, and English Language Learners.
In the coming months, the National Center for Education Statistics is expected to release the final graduation rate data, including the nation’s current graduation rate.
Record graduation rates have been reported in the last two years. This year, 36 states saw overall graduation increases and just six states saw decreases. Another eight remained unchanged since 2012-2013.
The achievement gap also decreased for black and Hispanic students and for students with disabilities, ELL students, and low-income students. The biggest improvements were in Delaware, Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia, and Illinois. States that saw smaller increases included Maryland, where 86.4% of students graduated on time in 2014, and Virginia, where 85.3% graduated on time.
“The hard work of America’s educators, families, communities and students is paying off, particularly after several years of intense work by educators transitioning to new, higher standards. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “While these gains are promising, we know that we have a long way to go in improving educational opportunities for every student – no matter their zip code – for the sake of our young people and our nation’s economic strength.”
Duncan, who will be stepping down from his post in December, said that graduation rates are an important metric, especially since most states have moved to the new Common Core-aligned tests and have results that can’t be compared to former years. John King, who will succeed Duncan, said that the graduation statistics are evidence that the Obama administration’s education policies are making a difference and that lawmakers should keep that in mind as they rewrite No Child Left Behind.
The Legislature is negotiating a compromise that will have to pass both houses and gain the signature of the president. Conservatives want to eliminate what they view as federal overreach in states’ education policies, while the civil rights community and the Obama administration argue that federal power is what keeps states from hiding achievement gaps or pushing aside struggling school issues.
In New York, graduation rates rose by one percentage point to 77.8% in the 2013-2014 school year. The only states with lower rates than New York were New Mexico, Nevada, and Alaska, writes ISurfPeducah’s Sally Carroll.
Meanwhile, Alabama is celebrating having the second highest increase in graduation rates in the country. The state’s rate was 86.3%, which was up from 80% from the previous year, writes Jeremy Gray of Alabama Media. Delaware was the only state with a greater increase, boasting a rise from 80.4% to 87% over the same time period.
“This success is directly attributable to the dedicated teachers, leaders, support staff, parents, community partners and students who have embraced our goal of 90 percent graduation rate by 2020 and as a result have developed some of this most innovative and student centric programs in the nation,” Alabama Schools Superintendent Tommy Bice said
Some of those programs included offering high school courses at night, online classes taught by Alabama teachers 24/7, and support programs offered in collaboration with other community groups. As a result of these efforts, Alabama is well ahead of its projected improvement goals and ultimately meeting its state goal of 90%.