Graduation Rates Rising, but Disparity Remains

The Slatest
Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 22 2013 11:46 AM

Graduation Rates Rising, but Disparity Remains

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High school graduation rates are at a 40-year high nationwide

Photo by Christopher Furlong/Getty Images.

Some good news and bad news on the national education front: National high school graduation rates are at the highest they've been since 1974. But a breakdown of the data—by city vs. suburbs, and by ethnicity—shows ongoing disparity.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 78 percent of students are graduating within four years of starting high school. That's based on data from the class of 2010. But there seem to be some pretty notable disparities between suburban and city graduation rates. The Washington Post flagged this data from the DC metro area:

Students in Maryland and Virginia had higher graduation rates than the national average—82.2 percent and 81.2 percent, respectively. The District had a lower graduation rate than all but one state, with 59.9 percent of its students graduating on time.
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As they note, that disparity is typical for the nation's largest cities, and it's partially responsible for a reform in the way graduation rates are measured by the Department of Education, as this 2008 article from U.S. News and World Report explained. Essentially, dropout rates used to be calculated by a number of different methods, and were often inflated. As part of that reform, all states are required to adopt a standardized reporting method by 2013.

The NCES broke down the graduation rates by race and ethnicity as well. Asian/Pacific Islander students had the highest four-year graduation rate at 93.5 percent, followed by Caucasian students (83.0 percent), Hispanic students (71.4 percent), American Indian/Alaska Native students (69.1 percent), and Black students (66.1 percent). Graduation rates among Hispanic students, as the Post noted, has jumped 10 points in five years.

Graduation rates improved for every ethnicity in the United States. The District of Columbia was the only measured area to see a drop in rates by one percentage point or more. In every state, boys had a higher dropout rate than girls.

Abby Ohlheiser is a Slate contributor.

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