For the first time in US history, the nation's high school graduation rate has surpassed 80%, according to a report prepared by four civic and education-minded organizations and titled: 2014 Building a GradNation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic.
The study focuses on three specific terminologies, as defined below:
- Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR or cohort rate): a method of track groups of students who enter high school at the same time and graduate on time (3-4 years depending on if the school starts in ninth or 10th grade) with a regular diploma. The ACGR adjusts for students who may transfer in or out of a school or die during their high school years.
- Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR): A statistical method that does not account for transfers in or out. Regarded as the most effective way to measure graduation rates without individual student identifiers.
- Dropout Factories: Term used to describe high schools where the enrollment of the 12th grade class is 60% or less than the 9th grade class was three years preceding.
According to the numbers prepared by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America's Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, the US' ACGR shows an on-time graduation rate of 80%, as does the AFGR for Classes of 2006-2012.
With data from Idaho. Oklahoma and Kentucky not available, only two of the other 47 states had a graduation rate lower than 70%: Oregon (68%) and Nevada (63%).
Twenty-seven states have a graduation rate of at least 80%, with Iowa leading the way at 89% followed by Texas, Vermont, Nebraska and Wisconsin all at 88%.
Despite the encouraging numbers, the report also lists several areas where graduation rates continue to fall short of hoped-for expectations.
- The opportunity gap: The link between low income and low academic performance is strong, but research shows it is solvable. Among non-low income students, 40 states are above the national average graduation rate of 80 percent. However, among low-income students, 41 states are below the national average.
- Big city challenges: While there are nearly 200 fewer dropout factories in urban areas in 2012 than in 2002, more than half of those remaining are located in large urban areas. Most big cities with high concentrations of low-income students still have graduation rates in the 60s, with a few in the 50s.
- Young men of color: In spite of gains made by all students of color over the past six years, young men of color continue to lag behind other subgroups of students. In a sub-set of Midwestern and Southern states, which educate a large percentage of African American students, graduation rates for African American males remain in the upper 50s and low 60s.
The report's benefactors are pushing for a 90% graduation rate across the United States by 2020.