U.S. High School Graduation Rate Up to 81%, But it’s Not All Good News

The U.S. high school graduation rate ticked up for the third year in a row, according to new federal data showing that 81 percent of the Class of 2013 graduated within four years.

That’s an increase of one percentage point since 2012 and two percentage points since 2011. States have been calculating their four-year high school graduation rates since 2010 using a uniform measure, so that accurate comparisons can be made between different parts of the country. Eighty-one percent is the highest high school graduation rate the United States has seen since states began using this measure.

This is obviously excellent news.

“America’s students have achieved another record-setting milestone,” said Secretary of Education Arne Duncan 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.”

Not All States Are Equal

However, numbers vary dramatically from state to state. Iowa had the highest graduation rate at 90 percent, and Oregon had the lowest rate at 69 percent. The District of Columbia came in lower at 62 percent, compared to its neighboring states: Maryland’s graduation rate was 85 percent, and Virginia’s was 84 percent. However, it’s perhaps unfair to compare a city, the District of Columbia, against states. In any case, D.C.’s number was up by three points since 2012.

The Education Department did not release graduation rates broken down by race, gender, income and disability, but Newsy is reporting that the graduation rates of students with disabilities varies widely between states: in Nevada, around 25 percent of students with disabilities graduated on time, while in Montana that number was closer to 80 percent.

Educational Inequality

In addition, the Schott Foundation for Public Education released a report last week estimating that 59 percent of black males graduated from high school in the 2012-2013 school year, although the group itself notes that these are just estimates. The foundation arrived at these figures by compiling previous Department of Education data and previous data from its own reports and applying a moving average.

“On the heels of several recent tragedies and acts of violence that have brought increased attention to the alarming racial divide in our nation, the report reveals a quieter destructive force related to racial injustice: educational inequality,” Schott Foundation President and CEO John H. Jackson said in a statement.

What About The Other 19 Percent?

And then, of course, there are the other 19 percent, a huge number of young people who never make it to graduation day.

Last year America’s Promise Alliance, a nonprofit founded by former Secretary of State Colin Powell, issued a report detailing the numerous challenges faced by students who fail to finish high school. After interviewing more than 200 Americans who left high school and analyzing more than 3,000 survey responses, researchers found that these students often grew up in “toxic environments” where they experienced traumatic events like violence in the home or at school.

Thirty percent of the respondents reported having been abused, 22 percent reported having been homeless, and 18 percent reported having spent time in juvenile detention.

So we cannot rest on our laurels. Eighty-one percent is a good number, but we still have quite a way to go to ensure a quality education for all of our young people.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Sarah Hill
Sarah Hill4 years ago

Just because they graduate doesn't really mean much if they can't read, write or do math. Not to mention history and geography. If you don't know history, you are doomed to repeat it! We are watching it now with ISIS! I used to wonder why no one stopped the Nazis, we are now doing the same thing!

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus4 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Anja Necin
Anja Necin4 years ago

Thank you!

Magdalena J.
Past Member 4 years ago

Thank you!

Darryll Green
Darryll Green4 years ago

if that's true, why are we still ranked 24 in the world - http://www.geographic.org/country_ranks/educational_score_performance_country_rankings_2014_oecd.html

Hent catalina - maria

Thank you

Ron Loynes
Ron Loynes4 years ago

LOL You're kidding right! Look at articles here that don't use spell check. Obviously the kids can't write complete sentences, LOL WTF,MBFF etc. That's IF they can write cursive anymore. See how many can give you change correctly at Burger King or the grocery store? How many know what APR is or can balance a checkbook? How many can actually pass a US History Immigration test? How many actually know what a condom does best prevent pregnancy or venereal disease? How many know that paying attention while driving saves lives (your and mine) as opposed to talking, texting, playing the radio too loud cavorting inside the car with friends and racing? How many know where Liechtenstein or even Idaho is on the map? Education is centuries old, be a jack of all trades and a master of none! Good luck for the they will inherit the power to run the earth (if their or us is even alive)!

Robert Hamm
Robert Hamm4 years ago

OH stop with this “government school” crap. Its te same school that has been here for my entire life.

The problem with education is we dodnt seem to comprehend that the amount of knowledge is growing exponentially and we are trying to cram it all into the same 12 years. EVER generation has MORE to learn than the prebvious and never has that been true than in the last 40. The amount of knewledge to be learned is IMMENSE.

Trying to cram that all into 12 years is going to get tougher and tougher s time goes on. It has nothing to do with the government…… what I had to learn in 12 years was miniscule compared to what my grandkids will have to absorb. WHAT we teach is going to have to change. So very tough decisions have to be mad on sooooo many frints in this country and far too many of us are loooking BACKWARDS for the answers. The answer isnt there because the PRBLEM isnt there. So PLEASE stop blaming the government for something they have NO control over.

Anne F.
Anne F4 years ago

Schools can be better
we need to encourage all our older teens to learn lots, get training, starting earning their own ways