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U.S. Graduation Rates Hit 81 Percent, Could Keep Rising

Despite the 80 percent milestone, education advocacy groups say the U.S. must address a number of issues to keep graduation rates rising.
Posted at 8:44 PM, Apr 28, 2014

As the school semester winds down, odds are good that more students than ever will graduate from high school this year in the U.S.

According to reports published by the National Center for Education Statistics and America’s Promise Alliance, 81 percent of the class of 2012 graduated on time. The APA called the figure a “momentous threshold,” attributing the rise in part to the closings of over 600 so-called “dropout factories” from 2001 to 2012.

The 2012 data is the latest available. Now, the APA defines a “dropout factory” as a school where 12th grade enrollment is 60 percent or less of the 9th grade enrollment three years earlier. The group says more than 1.2 million students were switched to better schools.

States nearing a 90 percent rate include Nebraska, Vermont and North Dakota while Oregon and Nevada scored lowest with under 70 percent of students graduating.

John Gomperts, head of America’s Promise Alliance, celebrated the news, saying “For a country that can feel like it’s struggling to make progress, this is a pretty big story of positive change.”

Despite the flashy 80 percent figure, it’s clear that disparity does exist between the states. In Nevada, just under 25 percent of students with disabilities graduated while Montana saw over 80 percent of those students get a diploma.

And an even greater problem could be absenteeism. The Washington Post says in D.C., truancy in elementary school "has dragged down overall school performance and graduation rates, and has sent students into academic tailspins from which they never recover."

For these students, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said “Ultimately, what our children need isn’t a little bit more of the same, it’s a true sea change that alters the odds of opportunity.” (Via CBS)

By battling disparities and focusing on curbing absences, the APA says a graduation rate of 90 percent, its original goal, is entirely possible by 2020.