Graduation rate hits 80%

The high school graduation rate hit 80 percent in 2012, according to the U.S. Education Department. If progress continues, the four-year graduation rate could reach 90 percent by 2020.

Graduation rates increased 15 percentage points for Hispanic students and 9 percentage points for African American students from 2006 to 2012, with the Hispanic students graduating at 76 percent and African-American students at 68 percent, the report said.

Fewer students attend “dropout factories” — schools that graduate less than 60 percent of students.

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  1. wahoofive says:

    It’s easy to raise the graduation rate — all you have to do is water down the requirements. There isn’t any evidence that that’s what happened here, but I take with a grain of salt any reports about graduation rates and dropout rates. What matters isn’t how many people end up with a high school diploma, but how many end up with a high school education.

  2. Deirdre Mundy says:

    People are less likely to drop out if there are no jobs available.

  3. Well that is a good thing that graduation rates are increasing among minorities – I see more and more recognizing the importance of education.

  4. SC Math Teacher says:

    The graduation rate. Perhaps the most useless measure of high school efficacy.

    • tim-10-ber says:

      SC Math Teacher – please say more about measuring a high school’s efficacy. Thank you…

      • SC Math Teacher says:

        Um…not sure if you’re being snarky here! but I didn’t imply that I possess the holy grail of measuring HS efficacy. I just know that grad rates can be goosed in myriad ways that have little to do with actual learning: making up seat time with little to no actual work done, credit recovery whereby students make up a semester of no work in a week or two by passing simple online quizzes, re-takes, alternate location testing where students are given instruction during the test, etc., etc. Diplomas are routinely given to students who cannot perform basic math and reading/language skills, and yet we call their graduating a success and incorporate it into a school’s measure of success.

        As for good measures: End of course exams seem to be a pretty decent way to measure success subject by subject. General exit exams at least provide a fail-safe against graduating the illiterate or semi-literate. That’s for starters at least.

        • tim-10-ber says:

          SC Math Teacher — thank you! Not being snarky – truly interested in what you thought. Disagree on EOC at least in my district as scores received do not reflect grades given by teachers in many subjects- they tend to be higher on EOC (hmmm)…but maybe a general, broad subject based 12th grade level exam would work. That or stick with the ACT…I don’t trust states or districts to set cut scores. What a mess.

          I truly don’t trust the diplomas (er graduation #s reported) given by our district meaning what diplomas are suppose to mean – looking for alternatives. Thank you for replying.

          • Deirdre Mundy says:

            If EOC scores are higher than grades, maybe teachers are grading more on compliance than on knowledge? Or the EOC tests are too easy..

          • The Montgomery County, MD (DC suburbs) EOC pass rates from last year showed the opposite – good course grades and EOC failure. My experience, as a former MoCo parent, suggests that the actual course material was far below the course title/description, at many schools, because the kids were unprepared and unable to handle the real work. Failing too many kids is not allowed; hence widespread grade inflation, to the point of outright fraud. Grad rates are easily manipulated

          • SC Math Teacher says:

            My students’ EOC exam scores are more or less wwhat I expect them to be based on their work over the course of the semester. Sometimes low achievers will pull out, say, a 75, but for the most part they seem to be a pretty good measure of ability. This is anecdotal, of course, but at least, for the sake of my students, something that is a substantial portion of their grade makes sense to them.

        • Your critique of graduation rate as a measure of school efficacy seems to be more in it’s vulnerability to manipulation then in some inherent flaw in graduation rate as a metric.

          But as we move more and more into a world of parental choice overall school metrics are going to become increasingly important and graduation rate is going to be an important factor in gauging the value of a school. It’ll just have to be credible to have value and that means a voluntary standards body and guarantors of the honesty of the resultant standing.

          Nothing particularly exotic about that other then that it would be applied to the public education system and there voluntary standards are exotic indeed.

          • SC Math Teacher says:

            Yes. To re-word: The graduation rate, based on widespread current practices, is the most useless measure of high school efficacy. It need not be that way, to be sure.

        • Jerry Doctor says:

          Graduation rates are indeed phony. Our district uses several ways to boost them with night school being a favorite. Unfortunately the end of course exams are also phony.

          The district adopted Benchmark Exams to test whether or not students had “mastered” the material. The first year was a bloodbath. The next year on “Curriculum Day” teachers were assigned to reassess the exams. For the Chemistry Benchmark our instructions were the “fix the bad questions.” A bad question was one less than half the students got right. Since it was a multiple choice exam, the questions were fixed by replacing the wrong responses selected by students with less attractive alternatives.

          Amazingly that spring the new, improved and “verified by teachers” version showed mastery by more students.

          I guess the point of all of this is that graduation rates, end of course exams or any other measure of school efficacy is worthless when used by people without honor.

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            That was so well-written. And so sad.

            But I don’t think it’s about being without honor. It’s about trying too hard not to be mean. I have heard so many teachers say something like, “I can’t fail him. These days, you can’t do anything without a diploma.”

            And perhaps there is a sneaking suspicion that much of what students are supposed to learn isn’t something they’ll use anyway, so what’s the harm in passing them?

            Which may be even sadder.

  5. Miller Smith says:

    69% of Washington DC seniors have 21+ days of unexcused absence…they will be graduated none the less.

    You can constantly increase the graduation rate when you have no standards.

  6. My home state of Nevada ranks dead last in graduation rate at 63% (all populations), it’s below 50% if you look at African-Americans or Latinos.

    That being said, our state board of education here voted about six weeks ago to lower the passing score on the math exit exam from 300 (out of a possible 500) to 242, so that more students could jump over a lowered bar.

    Students who have GPA’s of 3 or higher and fail EOC or exit exams have been deluded into thinking they’ve actually learned something, when in fact they haven’t (thank you grade inflation and social promotion folks).

    In my day, our school district implemented a absence policy in my senior year, after the 18th absence (in a semester), when you got the 19th, you lost all your class credit for that semester and got the boot.

    One young lady who was in my senior class had reached 18 absences, and we warned her not to ditch school on ‘senior ditch day’, and she did. The next day, she got the boot, and didn’t graduate with our class, she spent 3 months in summer school making up the credit she lost through stupidity.

    I’m starting to think that school board members (local and state) are nothing more than feel good types, rarely dedicated to keeping standards, rather than lowering them to make kids feel good about themselves.


    • I don’t agree with the idea of penalizing kids for absences, in and of itself. For struggling students, a pattern of regular absences, can be used as justification for a failing grade, but I do not support the idea of penalizing kids who will pass the quizzes, exams, EOCs anyway. Particularly with kids at the top of the curve, and with kids in very heterogeneous classes, those kids might actually learn more by reading at home, visiting a library or museum etc. than being bored at school – because schools refuse to group by instructional need. Where absences matter is where kids are demonstrably not learning the material – as is often seen in areas where significant numbers of immigrant families (usually Mexicans) go “home” for several weeks, starting before Christmas. The kids are often not only ELL but also enter school with weaker general knowledge/vocab. Spending a significant chunk of time, during the school year, speaking only Spanish and doing no academic work, imposes a significant cost to the students. It was like that at a teacher relative’s school.

      • momof4,

        prior to the district implementing that policy, we would have some students routinely miss 60 days of school and still be allowed to graduate. I remember a guy on the football team who missed 53 days (out of 90 in a semester) and still managed to pass the class.

        Put another way, if a person missed 50-60 days of work in a 90 day period, what do you think an employer would do? They would have been fired within the first two weeks due to excessive absenteeism.

        I’m in favor of eliminating ELL/ESL and going with total immersion work, but that would get an uproar from civic groups and parental units.

        • I think a better answer would be intensive English language instruction first..then immersion. If commercial companies like Rosetta Stone can teach language, schools should. Hell, rosetta Stone must have an english language program to sell overseas….just buy that.

      • I’d also agree with doing something with students who nail things academically vs. seat time (which is a joke, IMO).

        If you know the work, and can pass a rigorous EOC exam, you get full credit for the class, and get advanced. Why waste time on coursework you already know inside and out 🙂

        • What about the students who don’t begin the class already knowing the material, but who could learn it in half or a third of the time? In the heterogeneous classroom, let alone the fully-included one, the pace of instruction is slowed to at least the middle of the class, and perhaps to the lower end. Better prepared or more able kids are wasting lots of time. Some teachers will allow independent work, but many won’t – it do.esn’t fit with the groupwork, cooperative learning format. Even worse, such kids are too often “asked” to do “peer tutoring”

          • This is the reason we need to group students by ability and bring back tracking in our schools. We had it in my day, and the slower students were all grouped together, the average students, and the brightest students.

            We all seemed to learn just fine, and no one’s self-esteem suffered as a result of it.

            The issue of the brightest students being asked to tutor their slower peers is a dis-service to the bright students, as they get deprived of an education as well.


          • I find my biggest frustration isn’t pace, but lack of depth. The almost total lack of intellectual curiosity is heartbreaking. The few who are in to it are afraid to show it and get derided. I personally would be willing to take a class or two of the bottom 20%, if I could get a class or two of fourth quintile. ( I don’t teach AP)

          • Roger Sweeny says:

            At my high school, I have heard the rule of thumb, “Teach to the 25th percentile.” It certainly means that some students cover less material than they are capable of. However, those same students also believe that they have to do well in various non-academic activities in order to “get into a good college.” That takes a lot of time.

            The way the game is played nowadays, they just don’t have the time to cover as much as they are intellectually capable of.

      • Miller Smith says:

        Let me off the hook for kids I never ever see and we’ll have a deal!

  7. momof4 says:

    Roger: I would be happy to adopt the Brit system; where test scores are used to determine who is admitted to which school. Even as a parent of 4 elite athletes, I’d love to see the k-12 schools and the colleges as academic-only, and have kids choose what to do in their leisure time. However, can you imagine the screams of outrage?