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May 12, 2015

High School Graduation Rates Hit Another All-Time High

With over 81 percent of students graduating within four-years of entering high school, the Class of 2013 achieved the highest on-time graduation rate in U.S. history according to the 2015 Building a Grad Nation report. After graduation rates languished in the low 70s for nearly four decades, rates have accelerated dramatically over the past decade.  According to the report, if this rate of improvement continues the national graduation rate will reach 90 percent by 2020, a goal of the authors of Grad Nation.

While attainment gaps remain, the gap is narrowing between traditionally disadvantaged students and their more advantaged peers. This is particularly true for the fastest growing group of students in our nation’s schools, Hispanics, whose graduation rate increased from 71 percent to 75 percent between 2011 and 2013. Black students made significant gains during this period as well, improving their graduation rate from 67 percent to 71 percent. Despite these gains the graduation rates for black and Hispanic students are still significantly lower than those of white students (87 percent).

While this is certainly good news it actually doesn’t provide a complete picture of the success in raising high school graduation rates. This is because these are only on-time graduation rates and do not include those students who take longer than four years to earn a standard high school diploma. As CPE found in our report about late high school graduates, Better Late Than Never, our national high school graduation rate is likely about 5 percentage points higher if we include students who graduate within six years. This means that our public schools are likely graduating at least 86 percent of students. And since black and Hispanic students are more likely to graduate late than their white classmates, the attainment gap is likely to be narrower as well. These are graduates who are far too often overlooked as successes even though, as the Grad Nation report pointed out, districts across the nation have made significant efforts to get students back on the graduation track or re-enroll students who had dropped out completely to help them earn the same diplomas as their peers who graduated on-time.

 

The Findings

State Graduation Rates

  • On-time graduation rates vary by state
    • More than half of states (29 or 50) have graduation rates above the national average of 81.4 percent.
      • Six states have graduation rates within two percentage points of 90 percent.
      • Fourteen states have graduation rates between 69 and 78 percent.
    • Iowa achieved the highest on-time graduation at 89.7 percent followed by Nebraska, Wisconsin, and Texas all of which posted 88 percent graduation rates.
    • Oregon had the lowest graduation rate at 69 percent. All other states had at least a 70 percent on-time graduation rate.
    • Ten states increased their graduation rates by four or more percentage points between 2011 and 2013, with Nevada and Alabama leading the way which saw gains of 8.7 and 8.0 percentage points, respectively.
      • Another 22 states made gains between 2 and 3.9 percentage points during the same time period.
      • Six states (Arizona, Illinois, New York, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming) saw a drop in their graduation rates between 2011 and 2013.
  • Family income is not the primary driver for variation across states
    • Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma all have low-income student populations greater than 60 percent, yet each of the states are among the national leaders in graduation rates.
    • On the other hand, Alaska, Minnesota, and Wyoming have low-income student populations below 40 percent but each rank in the bottom 10 in terms of graduating their low-income students.
    • At 85 percent, Kentucky, Indiana and Texas were tied for having the highest on-time graduation rate for low-income students.
      • In Alaska, only 60 percent of their low-income students graduated on-time, the lowest in the nation, even though they had a similar proportion of low-income students in their schools as Iowa who graduated 80 percent of their low-income students.
    • Connecticut made the greatest progress in narrowing the graduation gap between low and non-low income students, narrowing the gap by 6 percentage points between 2011 and 2013.
      • North Dakota saw their gap increase by nearly 8 percentage points during the same time period.

 

National Graduation Rates

  • The national graduation rate hit another all-time high.
    • 81.4 percent of students who entered 9th grade in the fall of 2009 graduated with at least a standard high school diploma by the summer of 2013.
      • Between the early 1970s and mid 2000s, the national on-time graduation rate remained in the low 70s. However, between 2003 the 2013 the national graduation rate has improved approximately one percentage point per year.
      • As recently as 2001, the national graduation rate was at 72 percent.
    • At the current pace the national graduation rate will hit 90 percent by 2020—a goal of the report’s authors— and would put the U.S. once again among the world leaders.
  • Black and Hispanic students graduating at a much higher rate
    • While graduation rates for white students have improved, graduation rates for black and Hispanic students have improved at a faster rate.
      • The graduation rate for Hispanic students jumped from 71 percent in 2011 to 75 percent in 2013
      • Black students made headway as well by improving their graduation rate from 67 percent to 71 during the same time period.
      • Yet, large gaps exist as nearly 87 percent of white students graduated on-time in 2013.

Dropout Factories

  • Fewer students are attending so-called ‘Dropout Factories’ defined as schools where less than 60 percent of students graduate on-time.
    • There are nearly 40 percent fewer Dropout Factories in 2013 than in 2002 (1,146 and 2,007 respectively).
    • Furthermore, the number of students attending a Dropout Factory was nearly cut in half with 1.5 million fewer students attending a Dropout Factory in 2013 compared to 2002.
      • The number of black and Hispanic students in these schools dropped below 20 and 15 percent, respectively.
Filed under: Graduation rates,High school — Jim Hull @ 2:26 pm





January 22, 2015

Shhh!! Don’t say anything but more students are graduating now than ever before

One of the great secrets in education is the fact that our nation’s high schools are graduating more students on-time than ever before. Even after it was first reported last year that the national high school on-time graduation rate reached 80 percent it still seemed like this news was all too-often overlooked by critics and proponents of public education alike. Maybe this will change with President Obama highlighting this fact in his State of the Union speech last night. But the fact that the latest graduation rates were released last week by the National Center on Education Statistics (NCES) without many noticing doesn’t give me much hope.

So, in case you hadn’t heard already here are the facts. Our national on-time high school graduate rate reached another all-time high of 81 percent for the Class of 2013—the most recent year graduation rate data is available. This represents an increase from 79 percent for the Class of 2011. Keep in mind as well, this is an actual graduation rate not an estimate that NCES and most states had used for years. Since states have developed data systems in recent years that can determine which individual students entered ninth-grade and graduated four years later with at least a standard high school diploma it is now possible to calculate an actual on-time graduation rate.

Yet, this rate doesn’t even include late high school graduates who took more than four years to earn the same diploma. If the number of late graduates remains similar to what I found in my Better Late Than Never report it is likely that including students who take longer than four years to earn a standard high school diploma would increase the national graduation rate above 85 percent. Keep in mind, the national graduation rate hovered around 70 percent between the mid-1970s and early 2000s, making these gains all the more impressive.

Just a decade ago, few thought that reaching the 90 percent mark would even be possible, even if late graduates were included. However, now it appears the 90 percent mark is within reach. In fact, Iowa has already achieved a 90 percent on-time graduation rate according to NCES data. And five other states -Nebraska, New Jersey, North Dakota, Texas, and Wisconsin- are getting close to that marker, boasting 88 percent on-time graduation rates. Again, if late graduates were included it is likely that these states are graduating over 90 percent of their students.

And a number of states not as close to the 90 percent threshold also have reason to be optimistic. Particularly Nevada, Alabama, and New Mexico who have ranked among the bottom of states in terms of graduation rates. From 2011 to 2013, each of them improved their on-time graduation rates by 9, 8, and 7 percentage points, respectively. Such increases represent thousands more students earning the minimal credentials needed to be prepared for life after high school.

Of course, no one should be satisfied until all students leave high school with a high school diploma, even if it is as likely as a baseball player hitting a thousand. Everyone wants all students to be college and career ready and our nation’s high schools have made tremendous strides toward meeting that goal. A high school diploma may not guarantee success after high school but without one the chances are minimal. While there is more work to do, our high schools should be congratulated for this tremendous accomplishment. Fortunately, it looks like they are heading towards another record next year. If given the support they need, there is no reason our nation’s schools can’t obtain and surpass the 90 percent graduation rate. When they do, hopefully it won’t be such a secret. – Jim Hull






December 17, 2014

Work smarter, not harder

Scrooge
Scrooge McDuck was fond of telling his nephews to work smarter, not harder. I immediately reflected back to this quote from my DuckTales watching days when I saw the latest data on how much time U.S. teenagers spend on homework compared to their peers in other countries. Some might expect the U.S. to be among the world leaders in homework while others might expect our teenagers to lag behind their peers in most other countries. Which group you fall into likely depends on your family’s income level since as The Atlantic points out students from higher-income families spend 1.6 more hours per week on homework than students from the other end of the family income scale.

On-average, however, U.S. teenagers spend a little more time on homework than their peers around the world — 6.1 hours per week on home compared to about 5 hours a week for the typical teenager around the globe. Yet, these averages hide the fact that the amount of homework varies significantly from country to country. What may surprise some is that the time spent on homework has almost no correlation to where countries rank on international assessments. For example, while teenagers in high performing Shanghai-China and Singapore were also at the top of the list for most homework per week (13.1), teenagers in the high performing countries of Finland and South Korea had the least amount of homework (2.8 and 2.9 hours per week respectively). Even in Japan students only spend 3.8 hours per week on homework, nearly two and half hours per week less than students in the U.S., yet Japan outperforms the U.S.

In isolation the homework data isn’t very useful at identifying any problems in our schools. But, when taken together with the fact that U.S. teachers teach more hours than teachers in other countries along with knowing that our students spend more time in school than students in most other countries the problem clearly is not a lack of hard work. As our Making Time videos points out, it is not about how much time students spend learning, it is how effectively that time is used and the data strongly indicates that time can be used more efficiently. How to do that is not exactly clear at this point, but the first step would be to examine how those countries that spend less time on learning and still outperform the U.S. to gain insights into some best practices as to how to use time more efficiently here in the U.S. The data is clear, for the U.S. to be among the world leaders in student achievement our schools need to work smarter, not harder.  – Jim Hull






October 7, 2014

More Students Taking Advanced Placement But College Readiness Remains Flat

In a departure from past releases, this year’s SAT results included results from the College Board’s two other testing programs— the PSAT/NMSQT and their Advanced Placement (AP) exams— providing a more complete picture of student progress towards college readiness throughout high school.

This year’s picture provides evidence that more students, especially poor and minority students, are taking more rigorous courses such as Advanced Placement (AP), yet such improvements have not led to an increase in college-readiness rates. Unfortunately, it is not clear why this is the case especially since the AP test-taking rates for the nation’s largest growing population, Hispanics, make up a large portion of the increase in AP test-taking.

Although Hispanic students made tremendous strides on the AP, as a group, they were less likely to reach the college readiness benchmark on the SAT. While nearly 43 percent of the Class of 2014 who took the SAT reached the college readiness benchmark score of 1550, just under a quarter of Hispanic test-takers did so. Moreover, black students who took the SAT were even less likely to be considered ‘college ready,’ as just under 16 percent met or exceeded the college readiness threshold.

 

The Findings

 

College Readiness

  • Nearly half (43 percent) of the test-takers met the SAT College-Ready Benchmark in 2014, which is unchanged from the year prior and slightly lower than in 2009 (44 percent).
    • The SAT College-Ready Benchmarks represent a student who scores a combined 1550 or higher. Students hitting this benchmark have a 65 percent chance of earning a B-minus grade point average in their freshman year courses.
  • Minority students are less likely to be college-ready.
    • Just 15.8 percent of black students and 23.4 percent of Hispanic students were college-ready, according to the SAT’s Benchmark.

Core Course Rigor

  • Three-quarters of SAT test-takers completed the recommended “core” college-preparatory curriculum, which is an increase from 70 percent in 2001.

Test Takers

  • Just over 1.67 million students from the Class of 2014 took the SAT sometime during their high school which was a 4 percent increase from 2013.
  • More minority students are taking the SAT.
    • Nearly half (48 percent) of test takers were minorities in 2014 compared to 46 percent just a year earlier.

 

Advanced Placement (AP)

  • In 2014, 22 percent of the nation’s 11th– and 12th-graders took at least one AP exam which is nearly double the number of students from just a decade ago, when 12 percent took an AP exam.
  • Even though more students took an AP exam, passing ratings improved as well. In 2004, just 8 percent of 11th– and 12th-graders passed an AP exam; that rate increased to 13 percent in 2014.
  • Hispanic students (19 percent) are taking AP courses at nearly the same rate as the overall national average (22 percent), yet black (13 percent) and Native American (12 percent) students are still less likely to take AP.
  • According to the College Board’s PSAT/NMSQT results, nearly 40 percent of PSAT/NMSQT had the potential to succeed in an AP course but never took an exam. However, such students may have taken other college-level courses such as International Baccalaureate or Honors programs.





September 29, 2014

New CPE study examines background, outcomes of high school graduates who don’t advance to college

2014-320_CPE_HP_slider2 The Center for Public Education is pleased to present The Path Least Taken, the first installment of a series that looks at the characteristics and outcomes of high school graduates who don’t go on to college.

Jim Hull, CPE’s senior policy analyst, sifted through data from the National Center for Education Statistics’ Educational Longitudinal Study of 2002 and found new insights into this segment of the population (Spoiler: the percentage of non-college-goers is smaller than we thought) and a new format to showcase these findings. You can find the full report here, along with other extras.






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