Despite progress, grad rate gaps remain nationwide

Despite progress, grad rate gaps remain nationwide

(Md.) While the national high school graduation rate reached a record 85 percent in 2017, a new study shows a continued need to close achievement gaps between disadvantaged student groups and their peers.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center and Civic–a policy and research organization–found that the increase in graduation rates since 2001 when the national rate was at just 71 percent equates to an additional 3.5 million students who graduated on-time, rather than drop out.

Authors of the report noted, however, that low-income, black, Hispanic and homeless youth are still graduating at rates well below the national goal of 90 percent.

“Thanks to sustained and focused efforts by districts, states, and the nation over the past decade and a half, millions of additional students have graduated high school rather than dropping out,” John Bridgeland, CEO and founder of Civic, said in a statement. “Yet, students continue to live in two educational nations–with most students in high schools with a graduation rate already at 90 percent, while other students remain trapped in low-performing high schools where the average graduation rate is only 40 percent.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, homeless youth were found to have the lowest graduation rates nationwide, at an average rate of 64 percent. Students experiencing homelessness are 87 percent more likely to drop out of school than their housed peers, and without a high school diploma youth are 4.5 times more likely to experience homelessness later in life, according to researchers.

Minnesota had the lowest rate, at just over 45 percent. In nine states, graduation rates for homeless students was below 60 percent, while 20 states reported graduation rates for this subgroup at below 70 percent. Delaware, meanwhile, had a graduation rate of more than 80 percent for homeless students.

English learners had the second lowest graduation rates–the study shows that in 2017, EL graduation rates decreased nationally by 0.5 percentage point, dropping to nearly 66.5 percent.

In 15 states, researchers found that less than 60 percent of English learners graduate on time. More than 41 percent of all English learners that do not graduate on time are concentrated in four states with some of the highest percentages of ELs in the country: Texas, New Mexico, California and Nevada.

Authors of the study did note some highlights. For instance, black students have made double-digit gains since 2011 in their graduation rates, while Hispanic students became the third major subgroup, after white and Asian students, to reach the 80 percent graduation rate mark.

Still, they noted, graduation rate gaps of up to almost 11 percent remain among these student groups and their white peers.

To improve outcomes for these student groups, the report called for states to continue efforts to develop stronger graduation data collecting and reporting so that policymakers can better narrow down where major problem areas may exist and implement targeted interventions.

Additionally, the report concluded that greater reforms and investments need to be made in supports to ensure equitable access to opportunities from early education through postsecondary education for low-income, minority and homeless students. States could address inequities between high- and low-poverty school districts by establishing weighted funding formulas that provide more money to schools serving children with the greatest needs while focusing on funding services that have been shown to positively impact student outcomes, researchers wrote. more