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DOE Collects First Uniform High School Graduation Data

By Kelly Ni
Epoch Times Staff
Created: November 28, 2012 Last Updated: November 28, 2012
Related articles: United States » National News
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High school graduates listen to a commencement speech from Vice President Joe Biden when the presidential campaign was underway in June 2012. According to new data from the U.S. Department of Education, none of the states have a high school graduation rate above 90 percent. The average graduation rate was 70 percent in the 2010-2011 school year. (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)

High school graduates listen to a commencement speech from Vice President Joe Biden when the presidential campaign was underway in June 2012. According to new data from the U.S. Department of Education, none of the states have a high school graduation rate above 90 percent. The average graduation rate was 70 percent in the 2010-2011 school year. (Getty Images/Joe Raedle)

For the first time ever, the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) compiled data on the percentage of students who graduate high school within four years. The results that were released were unique in that nearly every state used similar methods for collecting data.

The new, state-synchronized method of determining graduation rates took into account students who have dropped out or who have not earned a typical high school diploma—factors that have been a concern when previously analyzing graduation rates.

Goals of the new graduation rate analysis include helping states that have waived No Child Left Behind show greater accountability; enabling states, districts, and schools to develop strategies that will reduce dropout rates; and aiming to see an increase in graduation rates, according to a DOE press release. 

Data was collected from the 2010–2011 school year. None of the states had a four-year graduation rate above 90 percent, but Iowa, Wisconsin, and Vermont had rates in the upper 80s. New Jersey had an 83 percent graduation rate, and New York had a 77 percent graduation rate. Ranked lowest was the District of Columbia at 59 percent.

Beth Reynolds is the executive director at the National Dropout Prevention Center/Network (NDPC/N), which focuses on issues related to dropout prevention and offers strategies designed to increase the graduation rates in schools nationwide. 

“I don’t think it’s just high school graduation rates. Graduation matters in high school and post-secondary.”

—Beth Reynolds, executive director, National Dropout Prevention Center/Network

Reynolds said that while she is glad there is a new system that will consistently allow for comparison of graduation rates between states, she does not think it is perfect—though it appears much better than before. She said that though the improvements she has seen in the old data system over the past decade have been small, at least there have been improvements. 

Over the past decades, the NDPC/N, located at Clemson University in South Carolina, has teamed up with many schools whose students were falling off-track from high school graduation. 

“Without question—the graduation rate is too low,” said Reynolds. “No one disagrees with that.” 

Reynolds said that there are many groups in the nation like the NDPC/N that can help students reach graduation and succeed not only throughout high school, but also well into their college years.

With 2011 being the first year of uniform data collection among states, Reynolds said that she is interested in seeing the coming trends over the next several years and particularly if the same states rank in the same spots every year. 

When there are schools that have kids who are not graduating, Reynolds said that they can contact the center, which will send a team in to collaborate with the school, district, or state, and give recommendations based on their expertise for what could be done differently. 

“Graduation rates continue to be an issue for the country,” said Reynolds. “But I don’t think it’s just high school graduation rates. Graduation matters in high school and post-secondary.”

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