Report: Dropout Rates Across the States

As President Obama mentioned earlier this year, the United States has "one of the highest high-school dropout rates out of any industrialized nation."  Currently only about 7 out of 10 public school students graduate high-school with a diploma.  Similar issues with graduation rates exist on the college level.  On average, across the nation, less than 60 percent of first-year students who enter a four-year college receive a degree from that institution within six years.  Getting a high-quality education is especially an issue for low-income and minority students.  According to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, only 20% of "Hispanic young people graduate high school ready for college, and only a quarter of low-income students earn a degree or credential post high school."  

During his first address to Congress, President Obama emphasized the fundamental role that quality education will play in revitalizing our economy. Noting that in today's global economy a high school education is no longer sufficient, the President asked "every American to commit to at least one year or more of higher education or career training," and has established a goal that "by 2020 America will once again have the highest proportion of college graduates in the world."

A new report published this week by Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center, entitled Diplomas Count 2009, highlights the high school dropout rates in each state.  According to the study, graduation rates  across the states are significantly different.  New Jersey had the highest graduation rate, 82.1%; while in Nevada only 47.3% of students graduated high school.  In addition, there is great discrepancy between the graduation rates of different demographic populations.  The graduation rate of Non-Hispanic whites rose to 76.1%, while Hispanic and African-American graduation rates rose to 55% and 51.2%, respectively.  

While most school districts performed at the level that experts would predict based on factors such as poverty rates and spending per student, there were districts that had graduation rates higher than expected.  For example, in 2006, despite the fact that more than half of the district's students are minorities and 6 in 10 are from low-income families the Texarkana Independent School District in Texas had a 79% graduation rate.  According to an article by the Christian Science Monitor, district officials believe that multiple factors led to their success, including a "focus on early education and providing high schoolers on the verge of dropping out with alternative education paths."

Helping Students Prepare for College: In addition, the report outlines the importance of defining "college readiness" and providing a road map that will helps students identify what it will take to be successful in their post-secondary institution. Hopefully, helping students chart a high school course load that is geared towards preparing them for college will lead to a reduction in college drop out rates in the future.  Today, approximately 20 states have articulated the skills and information base they feel is needed by a freshman in college.  While many of the standards set forward are related to academic course work, seven states include "soft skills", like time management, as part of college readiness standards.

Lastly, the report studies state data systems that have been implemented to track students and help administrators evaluate their academic progress in high school and at postsecondary institutions.  The ARRA has appropriated approximately $250 million in new competitive grants for such systems.


Diplomas Count 2009 
Diplomas and Dropouts:  Which Colleges Actually Graduate Their Students (and Which Don't) 
US high school graduation rate climbs to 69.2 percent 
Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Statement on President Obama's Call for 'A Complete and Competitive American Education
Obama: High School Education Not Enough 
Fast Track to College Act would lead nation closer to goals Obama set forth