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.
- 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.
The National Center for Education Statistics recently released a study examining the relationship between the rigor in Algebra I and Geometry courses high school students take and student test performance in those areas on the 12th grade National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP). This study was spurred by positive findings from the 2005 NAEP High School Transcript study, which found that in 2005 high school students earned more math credits, took higher level math courses, and obtained higher math course grades than in 1990.
While it is certainly good news that more students are taking more math courses at higher levels and earning higher grades, it’s not clear whether students are taking courses that are truly rigorous or whether or not this uptick in math course enrollment is resulting in more student math achievement. This study aims to answer that question. The study was unable to actually observe classroom instruction in order to measure rigor; however, the researchers gained access to math textbooks used in 550 public schools, analyzing the rigor of the problems in the textbooks to determine how demanding classes are. Previous studies have shown that math textbooks are closely related to math classroom instruction and serve as a good proxy for actual course rigor. After coding the textbooks to determine whether or not they represented basic, intermediate, or advanced levels of rigor, the study matched those rigor levels to math NAEP scores to see if there’s a relationship.
The overwhelming finding is there is a clear relationship between classroom rigor and NAEP scores. Students in rigorous Algebra I courses and Geometry courses scored higher on NAEP than students in basic or intermediate courses. On the other hand, the study also finds that the labeling of a course (i.e.-whether a course is regular or honors) often has little relationship to the true rigor offered in a course.
Here’s a detailed breakdown of the findings:
- Graduates in rigorous Algebra I courses and Geometry courses score higher on NAEP.
- Algebra I rigor level with corresponding NAEP scores (10 points is roughly equivalent to a year’s worth of learning):
- Beginner: 137 points
- Intermediate: 143
- Rigorous: 146
- Geometry rigor level with corresponding NAEP scores:
- Beginner: 148
- Intermediate: 152
- Rigorous: 159
- School course titles often do not truly represent the level of rigor a course offers.
- 73% of students who took an honors Algebra I course actually received an intermediate Algebra I course.
- In fact, a higher percentage of students in a regular class received a rigorous course than those in courses labeled “honors”
- Regular title, but curriculum was rigorous: 34%
- Honors title, but curriculum was rigorous: 18%
- In Geometry classes, only 33% of courses title honors were actually rigorous, while 62% were intermediate, and the rest were basic.
- Generally, about two-thirds of an Algebra I or Geometry course covers core content; the rest is a review of lower level material or a preview of higher level material.
- Most students, regardless of race or course title, took an intermediate level Algebra I course.
- 54% of high school students took an intermediate Algebra I course, while 14% had a beginner course, and 32% had a rigorous course.
- Most students, regardless of course title, took an intermediate level Geometry course.
- Classes titled “Informal”: 54% had an intermediate course (30% basic, 14% rigorous)
- Classes titled “Regular: 68% had an intermediate course (11% basic, 19% rigorous)
- Classes titled “Honors”: 62% had an intermediate course (4% basic, 33% rigorous)
- While racial differences weren’t present in differences in rigor level for all other courses, racial differences were present for Honors Geometry rigor levels.
- 37% of white students had a rigorous Honors Geometry course, while 21% of Black graduates and 17% of Hispanic graduates had a rigorous Honors Geometry course.
- While a higher level of rigor in a Algebra I or Geometry course resulted in higher NAEP scores, white graduates still scored higher than Black or Hispanic graduates on the Algebra I and Geometry portion of NAEP, regardless of the rigor level of their math test:
- White students rigor level of Algebra I and Geometry course and corresponding NAEP scores:
- Algebra I
- Basic: 142
- Intermediate: 148
- Rigorous: 151
- Basic: 155
- Intermediate: 159
- Rigorous: 165
- Black students rigor level of Geometry course and corresponding NAEP scores:
- Algebra I
- Basic: 128
- Intermediate: 129
- Rigorous: 134
- Basic: 120
- Intermediate: 129
- Rigorous: 133
- Hispanic students rigor level of Geometry course and corresponding NAEP scores:
- Algebra I
- Basic: 127
- Intermediate: 132
- Rigorous: 132
- Basic: 140
- Intermediate: 138
- Rigorous: 138
Great news!! The U.S. is on-track to have a 90 percent on-time graduation rate by 2020 according to a new report from America’s Promise Alliance.
Such news should be plastered all over the newspapers and lead the nightly news. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. But it is news worth celebrating nonetheless.
Specifically, the report found:
- As of 2010, the national on-time graduation rate is 78.5 percent up from 71.7 percent in 2001, a 6.5 percentage point increase.
- The graduation rate has increased by 5 percentage points between 2006 and 2010.
- Due to this increase, nearly 200,000 more students graduated in 2010 than would have if the rate remained the same as in 2006.
- If this annual improvement is maintained over the next decade the U.S. will have a 90 percent on-time graduation rate by 2020.
- Hispanic and African American graduation rates made significant rains during this time period.
- Two states, Wisconsin and Vermont, already have achievement a 90 percent on-time graduation rate.
- Over one million (1.1 million) fewer students attended so-called ‘Dropout Factories’ in 2011 compared to 2002. Such schools graduate less than half of their incoming 9thgraders within four years.
- The percent of African American students attending dropout factories declined from nearly 50 percent in 2002 to just 25 percent in 2011.
- Hispanic students were also less likely to attend a dropout factory, where the percent of Hispanic students attending such schools declined from nearly 39 percent to 17 percent over the same time period.
Of course, there is a lot more work to be done but our schools should be given credit where credit is due. For decades our on-time graduation rate stubbornly hovered around the 70 percent mark with no signs of budging. And now it is closing in on 80 percent and heading towards 90 percent by 2020.
Our teachers and administrators should take pride in making such progress and policymakers should support them with the resources they need by investing in early dropout warning systems and high quality dropout preventions as well as ensure all students have access to effective teachers and a rigorous curriculum. These are tools our research shows have helped move our on-time graduation rate to nearly 80 percent and will be vital in graduating 90 percent of students by 2020.
Last week, Education Week (EdWeek) released its annual special report Quality Counts 2013, which included its annual State of the States report card. For the fifth year running, Maryland earned top honors with a B plus while the nation as a whole earned a C plus, up from a C a year ago.
The nation and each state are graded in six categories (Chance for success; Transitions and Alignment; K-12 Achievement; Standards, Assessments and Accountability; and Teaching Profession. Most states have made particular progress in the Transitions and Alignment category by enacting a number of policies over the past two years focusing on ensuring students graduate high school college-ready. More than half (38) of states now define what college-ready is, up from 20 states in 2009 and 33 in 2011.
Here are some of the key findings from this year’s report card:
How did the nation as a whole and each individual state perform across all policy and performance areas?
- Overall, the nation received a grade of a C plus across all policy and performance areas, which is an improvement over the C the nation received a year ago.
- Maryland earned the highest grade (B plus) for the fifth consecutive year, followed by Massachusetts, New York, and Virginia, who all earned a B.
- The vast majority of states (38) earned grades between a C minus and a C plus.
- No states received an F. South Dakota earned a D plus.
Chance for Success
What are the odds that the average child who grows up in a particular state will do as well as the average child in the top-ranked state, at each stage of his or her educational life? (these stages are: the early childhood years, participation and performance in formal education, and educational attainment and workforce outcomes during adulthood)
- Massachusetts ranked first for the sixth consecutive year by being the only state to receive an A minus, while Vermont, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland all earned a B plus.
- This means that children in Massachusetts have the best chance of achieving positive life outcomes, according to Ed Week.
- On the other hand, children in Nevada, New Mexico, and Mississippi have the least chance of achieving positive life outcomes by earning a D and D pluses, respectively.
- The nation as a whole earned a C plus just as in 2012.
How do states compare on the academic achievement of their students in elementary through high school?
- Although this indicator was not updated this year it was still included in EdWeek’s grading system. In 2012 EdWeek gave our nation’s schools a C minus in the academic preparation of school children.
- The grade is based on the academic status and growth over time in math and reading scores, narrowing of poverty-based achievement gaps, as well as high school graduation rates and the performance on the advanced placement test.
- Massachusetts received the highest grade with a B. Maryland and New Jersey scored slightly lower, but still earned B’s.
- Louisiana, West Virginia, Mississippi, and the District of Columbia all received failing marks.
Transition and Alignment
How do states compare on implementing various education policies to better coordinate the connections between K-12 schooling and other segments of the education pipeline, such as early-childhood education, college readiness, and links to the world of work?
- Eight states led the country by ensuring students are ready to move up the education ladder by earning A’s for their policy work in this area. (Georgia, Arkansas, Maryland, Florida, Kentucky, Louisiana, Tennessee, and Texas).
- Georgia earned a perfect score of 100 by enacting all 14 policies Edweek included in their grading system.
- In contrast, three states earned D’s –down from seven states two years ago when this analysis was last conducted. (Nebraska, South Dakota, and Montana).
- The nation as a whole earned a B minus, up from a C plus in 2011. Furthermore, 25 states improved their grades over this same time period as well.
- More than half (26) of states now define school-readiness– up from 19 states in 2009 and 22 in 2011.
- Most states (38) define college-readiness which is up from 20 states in 2009 and 33 in 2011.
How much do states spend on their schools? Is the spending distributed equitably?
- Wyoming and West Virginia received an A and A minus respectively; no state received an A in 2012.
- On the other hand, four states — Mississippi, Nevada, Utah and North Carolina –received a D. No state received a failing grade.
- Nearly half of states (24) earned between a C minus and C plus.
- States tended to score higher on measures of funding equity than by how much they spend on schools.
- Nine states that received A’s or A-minuses on equity measures also earned an F on spending.
U.S. 4th graders catapulted into the Top 5 on the international reading rankings by making greater gains than any other country between 2006 and 2011. The U.S. also made significant gains in 4th grade math scores but only moved up one spot in the international rankings. Unfortunately, similar progress was not made in 8th grade math or science at either the 4th or 8th grades according to two new NCES reports on international assessments, Highlights from TIMSS 2011 and Highlights from PIRLS 2011.
These latest reports on international comparison shows that the U.S. is heading in the right direction in reading, math, and science but still has a way to go to catch up to high performing Asian counterparts. While students in Asian countries significantly outperform the students in the U.S. as a whole, students in such states as Massachusetts, Minnesota, and Florida rank among the world leaders. Furthermore, Asian students in the U.S. perform nearly as well as students in high performing Asian countries while our black students only perform as well as students in the lowest performing countries. This indicates that it is possible for our public schools to rank among the world leaders if all schools were given the resources needed to provide all students a high quality public education.
Summary of the result provided below.
PIRLS (Progress in International Reading Literacy Study): Assessed the reading ability of 4th graders in 53 countries. PIRLS has been given every 5 years since 2001.
TIMSS (Trends in International Math and Science Study): Assessed the math and science knowledge of 4th and 8th graders in 57 countries at the 4th grade level and 56 countries in 8th grade. TIMSS has been given every four years since 1995.
Fourth Grade Reading
- On PIRLS, just 4 countries outperformed the U.S. in 2011. U.S students (556) outperformed the likes of Canada, Italy, Germany, and Norway. In 2006, the U.S. was outperformed by 10 countries.
- Between 2006 and 2011 the U.S. score increased 16 points. Such increase was the third largest during this time period.
- Only Singapore (24 percent) had a significantly higher proportion of 4th graders reach the Advanced achievement level in reading than the U.S. (17 percent).
- No country outperformed Florida (569) fourth graders in 2011. Florida’s score was not significantly different from world leaders Hong Kong (571), Russia (568), Finland (568), and Singapore (567) but higher than every other participating country.
Fourth Grade Mathematics
- On TIMSS, U.S. fourth graders (541) performed above the international average (500) and performed as well as or better than all but 7 participating countries in 2011, an improvement from 2007 and 2003 when the U.S. was outperformed by 8 and 11 countries respectively.
- U.S. scores have risen 12 points since 2007 and a total of 23 points since 1995. Just 7 countries have made greater gains since 2007 and 5 since 1995
- North Carolina (554) was outperformed by only 5 countries while Florida (545) was outperformed by just 6 countries.
Eighth Grade Mathematics
- At the eighth grade level, U.S. students performed (509) above the international average (500). Just 6 countries scored significantly higher than the U.S. In 2007 and 2003 the U.S. was outperformed by 5 and 9 countries respectively.
- U.S. scores have risen 17 points since 1995. Only 3 countries made greater gains during this time period. The U.S. made greater gains than such high performing countries as Singapore (2 points) and Japan (-11). The U.S. did not make any significant gains between 2007 and 2011.
- U.S. states score among the world’s best and worst. Massachusetts (561) scored among the world leaders and similar to Japan (570). While Alabama (466) scored below the international average and similarly to Armenia.
- Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Indiana all scored above the international average while Alabama and California scored below.
Fourth Grade Science
- On TIMSS, U.S. students performed (544) above the international average (500) and performed as well or better than all but 6 countries in 2011. In 2007 and 2003 the U.S. were outperformed by 4 and 3 countries respectively.
- U.S. scores have remained relatively unchanged since 2007 and 1995.
- Fifteen percent of U.S. students scored at the Advanced achievement level. Only three other countries had a greater percentage.
- Both Florida (545) and North Carolina (538) performed similarly to the U.S. average.
Eighth Grade Science
- At the eighth grade level, the U.S. (525) performed above the international average (500) and performed as well or better than all but 8 countries as was the case in 2007. In 2003 U.S. students were outperformed by 7 countries.
- Although U.S. scores increased 5 points since 2007, the increase was not statistically significant. The U.S. has gained 12 points since 1995. Only 5 countries made greater gains during this time period.
- As in math, U.S. states scored among the world’s best and worst. Massachusetts (567) was only outperformed by the global leader Singapore (590) and Minnesota (553) performed similarly to Finland (552). While Alabama (485) scored below the international average and similarly to Turkey (483).
- Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, North Carolina, and Indiana all scored above the international average while California scored similar to the international average and Alabama scored below.
Additional information about how the U.S. compares internationally
More than a horse race: A guide to international assessments
Time in School: How the U.S. compares
Getting Back to the Top: An international comparison of college attainment