1/4 quit high school — and that’s progress

High school graduation rates increased from 72 percent to 75.5 percent from 2001 to 1009, concludes a new Building a Grad Nation Report. More than half the states increased graduation rates. The number of “dropout factories” — high schools graduating 60 percent or fewer students on time — decreased significantly.


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  1. A 25 percent dropout rate is progress? The dropout rate (nationally) was that when I was in high school 30+ years ago (and the actual dropout rate is probably more like 30-35% nationally, if we factor in those students who enter 9th grade and actually manage to graduate with a diploma within four or fewer years).

    Not much of a headline, IMO…

  2. Also, grad rates are meaningless without grad-level knowledge and skills, which are pretty obviously lacking, even among those going to college; just look at the percentage needing remediation, despite lowered standards for college classes. I’m pretty sure that too many cities – and other areas – are giving diplomas to kids who are functionally illiterate and innunmerate. It won’t change until kids, parents, teachers, admins and politicians demand mastery of grade-level knowledge before advancement and an end to grade inflation.

  3. Thought experiment:
    There is some IQ number high enough that just about everyone with that IQ (or higher) has the ability, setting aside severe mental or physical handicaps, to graduate from high school. And also, there is some IQ number low enough that virtually no one at or below that level does.
    The function whose value for any given value of IQ is the percent of people with that IQ who have the ability to graduate from high school thus ranges from near 0 percent to near 100 percent (though the graph would be shifted depending on where we set the standard for graduation) and — the point of the thought experiment — the function is monotone increasing.
    Within a narrow range of IQ, the percentage who do graduate is clearly lower than the percentage who could graduate if they had the benefit of the best and most appropriate teching. We can, and should, be aiming to narrow that gap. But nothing, even in theory let alone in practice, can make that function constant instead of increasing.

  4. I doubt there was ever a time in American history where significantly more than 75% of the population graduated from high school.

    The most recent study I have seen indicates that he drop out rate is the lowest it has been since at least the early 1970’s.

    In October 2009, approximately 3.0 million 16- through 24-year-olds were not enrolled in high school and had not earned a high school diploma or alternative credential (table 6). These status dropouts accounted for 8.1 percent of the 38 million noninstitutionalized, civilian 16- through 24-year-olds living in the United States.
    Among all individuals in this age group, status dropout rates trended downward between 1972 and 2009, from 14.6 percent to 8.1 percent