States Continue to Improve Graduation Rates, Particularly for Underserved Students

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New DOE preliminary data shows that states continue to increase high school graduation rates and narrow the gap for traditionally underserved students

U.S. Department of Education

New preliminary data released by the U.S. Department of Education shows that states continue to increase high school graduation rates and narrow the gap for traditionally underserved students, including low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities and English learners.

The report is an important first look at preliminary graduation rates reported by states for the 2013-14 school year. The National Center for Education Statistics is expected to release final graduation rate data – including the nation’s newest graduation rate – in coming months. The nation has posted record graduation rates for the last two years, with the highest rate ever of 81 percent announced in March and improvement across all student subgroups.

“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.”

The vast majority of states – 36 – saw increases in overall graduation rates, while 6 states saw decreases and another 8 saw no change since 2012-13. The majority of states also shrank the achievement gap for black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities, English language learners and low-income students.

States that saw the biggest gains include Delaware, Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia and Illinois.

Difference in Achievement Gaps between 2012-13 and 2013-14:

Number of states where gap decreased between 2012-13 and 2013-14 Number of states where gap increased between 2012-13 and 2013-14 Number of states with no change between 2012-13 and 2013-14
Black-White gap 28 10 12
Hispanic-White gap 32 12 6
Economically Disadvantaged/All students 23 7 20
Limited English Proficient/All students 23 21 6
Children with one or more disabilities/All students 21 17 12

Source: U.S. Department of Education Office of Elementary and Secondary Education

Since 2010, states, districts and schools have been using a new, common metric—the adjusted cohort graduation rate—to promote greater accountability and develop strategies that will help reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide. The new data reflect that more accurate measure.

Today’s economy calls for critical skills that go beyond the basics. To ensure the economic strength of our country, students must graduate high school ready for college, careers and life. The Department has invested more than $1 billion in early education; implemented strategies that improve achievement and close opportunity gaps, and awarded billions of dollars through such grant programs as Race to the TopInvesting in Innovation, and School Improvement Grants; and expanded college access and affordability for families.

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