High school graduation rates have reached a record high of 83.2 percent, continuing a steady increase that shows improvement across all ethnic groups, according to federal data released Monday.
The Obama administration said the news was encouraging, and President Barack Obama planned to talk about the gains during a visit to a Washington, D.C., high school on Monday. Increases in the graduation rate for the 2014-2015 school year were seen for all ethnic groups, as well as for disabled students and students from low-income families.
The increasing graduation rates, however, come against a backdrop of decreasing test scores. Last year, math scores for fourth and eighth graders declined for the first time in 25 years on the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress – also known as the Nation’s Report Card. Reading scores were not much better: flat for fourth graders and lower for eighth graders compared to 2013. Average scores on SAT and ACT college entrance exams have also shown declines.
Secretary of Education John B. King acknowledged worries about sagging achievement. “A higher graduation rate is meaningful progress, but certainly we share the concern that we have more work to do to make sure every student graduates ready for what’s next,” he said in a call with reporters.
But the graduation rate “isn’t simply a number,” King said, saying “it represents real students in real cities, towns and rural communities who are better prepared for success in college and careers.”
Obama frequently cites the increase when he talks about progress made during his presidency. The administration said the graduation rate has increased by about 4 percentage points since the 2010-2011 school year.
There were significant differences among groups. Asian Americans had a 90.2 percent graduation rate, while whites were at 87.6 percent, followed by Hispanics at 77.8 percent, African-Americans at 74.6 percent and Native Americans at 71.6 percent.
The growth in graduation rates has been steady since states adopted a uniform way of tracking students. In 2008, the Bush administration ordered states to begin using a formula that is considered a more accurate count of how many actually finish school.
The White House said that money invested through a grant program called Race to the Top has helped improve some of the nation’s lowest-performing schools. The administration also said millions of students have gained access to high-speed broadband in their classrooms and that the states and federal government have helped hundreds of thousands more children gain access to preschool education programs.
According to the federal data, the District of Columbia made the most progress in 2014-2015 compared to the previous year. The District improved its graduation rate by 7 percentage points.
Republished with permission of the Associated Press.