Learn About: 21st Century | Charter Schools | Homework
Home / Edifier


The EDifier

February 20, 2014

High school graduation rate at an all-time high

NAEPSecretary Duncan proudly wore number 80 on his jersey at the NBA celebrity All-Star game this past weekend— as well he should’ve. It just so happens the number 80 represents one of the best kept secrets in education: our national on-time graduation rate.

This may come as a shock to many as popular perception tends to be the myth that our public schools are flatlining. But the facts show otherwise, as recent data released by the National Center for Education Statistics show our national on-time graduation rate for our public high schools now stands at 80 percent— an all-time high.  It’s quite an accomplishment considering the rate hovered around 71 percent for much of the 1990s.

And keep in mind, the 80 percent graduation rate represents only those students who earned a standard high school diploma within four years of entering high school so it doesn’t include students who earned a high school equivalency (ex GED) or certificates of completion. Nor does it include those students who took more than four years to earn a standard high school diploma. As our report on late high school graduates Better Late Than Never found, including late high school graduates would likely add more than 5 percentage points to the national graduation rate. So the actual national graduation rate is quite likely closer to 90 than 80 percent.

What is even more impressive about these gains is that our high schools are serving an ever more diverse student population. Yet the overall graduation rate increased due to the substantial gains made by minority students. The on-time graduation rate for Hispanic students increased from 64 percent in 2008 to 75 percent in 2011. During this same time period the on-time graduation rate for black students improved from 61 percent to 67 percent. These are tremendous gains made in a relatively short amount of time. Let’s not overlook the fact that the graduation rate also continued to climb for white students during this same time period (81 to 84 percent).

While these are numbers worth celebrating they also show there is much more work to be done. The attainment gap between minority and white students needs to be closed. While they have narrowed in recent years, the narrowing needs to accelerate so minority students who are just entering school now will have the same chance to graduate as their white classmates.

Of course, simply giving students a diploma will not help them get a job or get into college. So, the diplomas they do receive must represent that fact that these students have completed courses they need to get into and succeed in college or get a quality job after high school. While there is more work to be done to ensure all students leave college and career ready, the data clearly shows our public schools are up the challenge. – Jim Hull






February 7, 2014

U.S. Schools Are Not Flatlining!

NAEPThe idea that U.S. school performance is flat is indefensible. But unfortunately all too many people believe it to be true. Why wouldn’t they? This sentiment is so often stated that it is assumed to be fact, especially since the 2012 PISA results were released last December. For example, in a recent Washington Post column Is The U.S. Making the Grade in Education? columnist Fareed Zakaria wrote “The United States has muddled along over the past few decades, showing little improvement or decline” as if it was undisputed fact even without providing any evidence. Over at Education Week Marc Tucker tries to answer the question Why Has U.S. Education  Performance Flatlined? by cherry-picking a few pieces of data that at first glance appear to support his assumption. Broadly speaking Tucker asserts the U.S. has made little progress since the 1970s in improving student achievement or graduating more students from high school or college.

Marc Tucker is not alone in pointing to such data to claim that U.S. schools are not improving which makes it vitally important to look at all the evidence to determine if indeed our schools have flatlined. As I recently wrote in the American School Boards Journal, the evidence is quite clear that our public schools have not flatlined but are making dramatic improvements in many areas.

Here is the evidence and you decide whether our schools have flatlined or flourished:

Students today are learning more than ever before

If you simply look at overall NAEP scores for our nation’s 17-year olds scores have improved by just six points between 1978 and 2012 it does appear that our schools have indeed flatlined. However, when you take a closer look a much different picture emerges. You’ll see that our nation’s black 17-year olds have improved by 20-points while Hispanic students improved by 18-points—these gains equate to nearly two years worth of learning. The results were even more impressive in reading where black students improved by 28-points between 1975 and 2012 which is nearly three years worth of learning while Hispanic students make a significant progress as well by improving their scores by 21-points. Such lines are hardly flat. Keep in mind that white students made significant gains during these time periods as well. Furthermore, similar gains were made by our nation’s 9- and 13-year olds.

A world leader in improvement

Our schools may not top the international rankings but few countries have improved their performance as much as we have. On the international Trends In Math and Science Study (TIMSS), U.S. 4th graders saw their math scores improve by 23 points between 1995 and 2011. U.S. eighth graders saw similar improvements with scores rising 18 points during the same time period. For each of these grade levels the gains were among the largest made by participating countries.  It should be noted the U.S. also made significant gains on the 8th grade TIMSS science assessment and on PIRLS the international 4th grade reading assessment.

More students receiving a diploma

Not only are our students learning more, more students are graduating. Although graduation rates remained relatively flat between 1970 and 2000, between 2000 and 2010 they steadily increased from 67 percent to 75. Just like on the achievement measures black and Hispanic students made even greater gains during this period. In 2000 just 50 percent of black students graduated high school within four years. That percentage has climbed to 62 percent in 2010. The improvement made by Hispanic students was even more impressive by increasing from 50 percent in 2000 to 68 percent in 2010.

More students are also graduating from college. The percent of the population over 25 with a bachelor’s degree increased from 11 percent in 1970 to 30 percent in 2010. During this same time period the percent of black adults with a bachelor’s degree increased from 6 percent 20 percent. For Hispanics, 8 percent of adults held bachelor’s degrees in 1980—the oldest data available—compared to 13.9 percent in 2010.

Despite the common assertion that our schools have flatlined, the facts clearly show our students are performing higher and more students are earning degrees than ever before. Are our schools where we want them to be? No, there is obviously more work that needs to be done. But the facts do show that our public schools are making significant strides and are in the best position to ensure all students obtain the skills they need to lead a successful life. – Jim Hull






September 20, 2013

High school graduation rates show public schools are improving

Good news about our public schools is hard to come by. Not because there isn’t any, but because there is so much focus on the areas our public schools need to improve, the areas where our schools are improving get overshadowed.

That is why it is so important to promote the success our public schools are having graduating more high school students. Back in June, I highlighted a report from Education Week that showed U.S. high school graduation rates were at the highest levels in 40 years. Recently, a new study published in the journal Education Next found similar results.

However, the study conducted by Harvard Graduate School of Education Professor Richard Murnane and doctoral student Stephen Hoffman dug deeper into the graduation rate data. In fact, they examined graduation rates dating back to 1900 and found graduation rates:

  • rose from 6 to 80 percent between 1900 and 1970.
  • remained stagnant between 1970 and 2000.
  • significantly improved between 2000 and 2010.

Graduation rates increased between 2000 and 2010 despite the fact that the proportion of black and Hispanic students increased substantially over the same time period. One would have predicted that an increase in the enrollment of such traditionally disadvantaged minority groups would have negatively impact graduation rates. Instead, the data shows how our public schools adapted to their changing student populations and graduated a greater number of black and Hispanic students. While black and Hispanic students are still less likely to graduate high school than their white peers, there is much less of a difference now than a decade ago.

Such success should be lauded but it shouldn’t hide the fact that there is still a lot of work to be done. No educator or policymaker should be satisfied until all students earn a high school diploma. Nearly two out of every 10 students still don’t graduate high school, with minority students remaining less likely to graduate than their white peers. Yet, our public schools are clearly on the right track and their recent efforts should be supported, so one day soon every student in America earns a high school diploma. – Jim Hull

 






September 13, 2013

Back to school but running late

Across the country, thousands of students are entering their last year of high school. While the vast majority of them started high school four years earlier, unbeknownst to many people, there are a significant number of students who began high school even earlier. Even though, it will take these students more than four years to earn a high school diploma, they will have to complete the same course requirements as their peers who graduated on-time. Even so, in some states these students are not recognized as graduates under their state’s accountability systems.

This begs the question: Should students who take longer than four years to graduate high school be counted as graduates for accountability purposes? Some states don’t count students who graduate late because they feel that allowing students to graduate in more than four years sets a lower bar for high school graduation. On the other hand, other states do count late high school graduates because they feel that any student who completes their academic requirements for a standard high school diploma should be recognized, even if it takes longer than the traditional four years.

Both arguments are focused on ensuring students are properly prepared for life after high school. So, to determine which argument holds the most water we need to find out whether students who graduate late are as well off after high school as students who graduate on-time. This is precisely what our report, Better Late Than Never set out to answer. What we found was that students were, in fact, slightly better off graduating on-time which lends credence to the argument that counting late graduates sets a lower bar for graduation. However, we also found students were much better off after high school if they graduated late than not earning a high school diploma even if they went on to receive GED or other high school equivalency.

For example, late high school graduates are better off than dropouts and GED recipients in a number of postsecondary outcomes where late high school graduates were more likely to:

  • have a full-time job with insurance and retirement benefits.
  • go onto and succeed in college.
  • take part in their communities.
  • live a healthier lifestyle.

Late Grad_Employ                         Late Grad_Vote

As our report shows it is preferable for students to graduate on-time but students are much better off after high school if they graduate with a standard high school diploma than not graduating at all, even if they go on to earn a GED. So, not only should states count late graduates as graduates for accountability purposes, states should encourage schools to stick with students who may have fallen behind their peers and get them back on track to graduate with a standard high school diploma even if it takes longer than four years. – Jim Hull

Filed under: Graduation rates,High school — Tags: , , — Jim Hull @ 7:30 am





June 7, 2013

Big improvement in high school graduation rates

High School Graduation Rate Climbs to Highest Point in 40 Years

The annual Diplomas Count report, courtesy of the newspaper Education Week (EdWeek), was released yesterday, showing yet another steady increase in the national graduation rate over the past three years. EdWeek defines graduates as students who earn a standard diploma or better in four years. Along with the national graduation rate, EdWeek also provides graduation rates by state showing the trends from 2000 to 2010 and a breakdown by student subgroups. This year’s edition also highlights several articles concerning targeted dropout prevention and recovery programs throughout the country.

Overall, the report provides promising evidence that high schools across the country are nearing historic graduation levels. These upward trends also pave the way for promising future results, with significant gains to be had by students of racial minority backgrounds.

Encouraging Findings

  • The national on-time graduation rate reached 74.7 percent for the class of 2010.  This level parallels achievement in 1973, and is a nearly 2 percentage-point increase from the class of 2009.  
    • This is the third year of increases following modest declines in 2006 and 2007.
    • Over the past decade, the graduation rate improved by 8 percentage points (66.7 percent in 2000 to 74.7 percent in 2010).
    • Forty-six states have seen increases in their graduation rates over the past decade, with gains ranging from less than a percentage point to almost 32 points.
  • Continued improvements for historically underserved minorities bolster national graduation rate increases from 2009 to 2010.
    • Latinos saw an impressive 5.4 percentage point increase over this period.
    • African-Americans progressed upward by 3.3 percentage points.
  • From 2009 to 2010, the number of states graduating 80 percent or more of high school students rose from 4 to 13.
    • Iowa (83.2), New Jersey (83.1), North Dakota (84), and Wisconsin (83.7) were joined by Connecticut (82.2), Idaho (80), Kansas (80), Maine (80.5), Minnesota (80.4), Missouri (80.7), Pennsylvania (83), Tennessee (80.3), and Vermont (85).
  • Eight states showed increases of at least 5.0 percentage points from 2009-2010.
    • Connecticut (6.2 point increase to 82.2), Delaware (6 point increase to 73.9), Idaho (7.9 point increase to 80), Illinois (6.6 point increase to 77.8 percent), Kentucky (6.7 point increase to 77.2), Maine (8.2 point increase to 80.5), South Dakota (6.8 point increase to 76.3), and Vermont (7.6 point increase to 85).
  • All major ethnic and racial groups have shown overall improvement since 2000.
    • Latinos have produced significant gains of 16.3 percentage points, decreasing the Latino-White graduation gap.
    • African-American graduation rates have improved by 13.2 percentage points, causing a substantial narrowing of the African-American-White gap.
    • Native Americans have increased graduation rates over the decade, but fell by 2 percentage points from 2009 to 2010. This subgroup lags behind other ethnic groups with 51 percent of students graduating in 2010.  
  • An astounding 46 states have demonstrated decade-long growth in graduation rates.
    • Florida, George, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Vermont each boast double-digit increases since 2000.

Findings of Concern

  • Graduation performance varies greatly by state.
    • Less than two-thirds of students earn their diploma in the District of Columbia (57), Georgia (64), Mississippi (64.4), Nevada (62.7), New Mexico (59.4), and South Carolina (61.5).
    • The largest state-level gap exists between the District of Columbia and Vermont, with a 28-percentage point disparity.
  • Male and female students are not graduating at comparable rates.
    • In 2010, 71.9 percent of males graduated compared to 78.4 percent of females.
    • This 6.5 percentage-point gap is a slight improvement on the 6.8 percent variance in 2009 (with 69.6 percent of males and 76.4 percent of females graduating).
  • Minority students are less likely to graduate than their White and Asian peers.
    • There is a 30-percentage-point gap dividing Asian (81.1 percent) and Native American (51.1 percent) students, the groups with the highest and lowest graduation rates, respectively. 
    • Significant graduation gaps exist across racial lines. The gap between Latinos (68.1 percent) and Whites (79.6 percent) is 11.5 percentage-points, while the gap between Black (61.7 percent) and White students is 17.9 percentage points.
  • Three states showed decreases of at least 5.0 percentage points from 2009-2010.
    • Arizona (5.1 point decrease to 67.2), New York (5.1 point decrease to 73.3), and Utah (7.1 point decrease to 71.3) each exhibited significant drop-offs in graduation rates.

For more information on how Education Week and others calculate graduation rates, check out the Center for Public Education’s Straight Story on High School Graduation Rates. Furthermore, check out the Center’s Better Late than Never to learn more about those students who took more than four years to graduate.

This summary was prepared by Christine Duchouquette, Policy Research Intern, and Jim Hull, Senior Policy Analyst for NSBA’s Center for Public Education.






Older Posts »
RSS Feed