High School Graduation Facts: Ending the Dropout Crisis

Dropout Crisis

Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, releases the annual Building a Grad Nation report, a detailed account of the nation’s progress toward the GradNation goal of a national on-time graduation rate of 90 percent.

Here are some facts on high school graduation rates based on data from the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education and other sources noted below.
 

Making Progress

  • The national high school graduation rate for 2014 is 82.3 percent – an all-time high.[1]
  • The increase in graduation rate means 2 million more students graduated rather than dropping out between 2002-2014.
  • Much of the gain made in recent years comes from increased graduation rates for students of color, with Hispanic/Latino students making gains of 5.3 percentage points and Black students increasing 5.5 points since 2011. [2]
  • In 2014, 72.5 percent of Black students, 76.3 percent of Hispanic/Latino students and 87.2 percent of White students graduated.[3]
  • Under the new criteria set by the Every Student Succeeds Act, low-graduation-rate high schools are now defined as schools that enroll 100 or more students and have graduation rates of 67 percent or less. (In the past, the campaign focused on schools with 300 or more students.) ESSA mandates that these schools use evidence-based reforms to improve.[4]
  • The number of large, low-grad-rate schools (300 or more students) declined from 2,000 in 2002 (enrolling 2.6 million students) to 1,000 in 2014 (enrolling 924,000 students). Including schools of 100 or more students, as ESSA requires, increases the number of low-graduation-rate high schools to 2,397 with a total enrollment of 1.23 million students.[5]
  • While the number of low-grad-rate high schools has declined considerably over the past decade, in some states they still predominate.[6]
  • Nationwide, there are four high-graduation-rate high schools (85 percent graduation rate and above) for every one low-graduation rate high school (67 percent graduation rate and below). [7]
  • As graduation rates have increased, so has the number of students participating in rigorous coursework, and taking and achieving on the corresponding exams. The total number of graduates taking an AP course has risen from 558,993 in 2004 to over one million in 2013. The number of students passing at least one AP course has risen in tandem, from 351,647 in 2004 to 607,505 in 2013. [8]
  • This trend also holds true for low-income students, who historically take AP courses and exams at far lower rates than their non-low-income peers. [9]
  • As the country turns more students who would otherwise have dropped out of high school into graduates, one would expect test scores on the ACT and SAT to decline if graduation rates were increasing because standards were being lowered. The evidence does not support this case. [10]
  • The existing data show that as more students are graduating, the percentage graduating college and career ready is not declining. [11]

Opportunity Gaps: The Work Ahead

  • At the national level, raising the current graduation rate of 82.3 percent to 90 percent means graduating an additional 284,591 students. [12]
  • Unacceptably low levels of students of color, low-income, English language learners (ELL), and students with disabilities are graduating from high school. [13]
  • Graduation rates for students with disabilities and ELL students remain in the very low 60s.[14]
  • Black and Hispanic/Latino students are still graduating ten and six percentage points behind the national average, respectively.[15]
  • 74.6 percent of low-income students graduated on time in 2014, compared to 89 percent of non-low-income students (a 14.4 percentage point difference). [16]
  • In 15 states, less than 70 percent of low-income students graduate. Nearly nine out of 10 middle- and high-income students are graduating on time, while only about seven in 10 low-income students graduate on time.[17]
  • While students with disabilities have shown some progress, with 63.1 percent now graduating on time, they still lag almost 20 percentage points behind the national graduation rate.[18] 
  • Students with disabilities constitute approximately 14 percent of K-12 public school enrollment, so achieving the GradNation goal will rest heavily on raising their graduation rates.[19]
  • Using ESSA’s new definition, 52 percent of the nation’s low-graduation-rate high schools are charter, virtual and alternative schools, all of which have grown in number since 2000. While charter, virtual and alternative schools collectively account for 14 percent of high schools and 8 percent of students, 20 percent of high school students who do not graduate on time attend them. Regular district high schools account for 41 percent of low-graduation-rate high schools and are where the majority of students who do not graduate on time can be found. [20]

Why a High School Diploma Matters

If the graduation rate increased to 90 percent for just one cohort of students, the country would see a $7.2 billion increase in annual earnings and a $1.1 billion increase in federal tax revenue.[21]

  • High school graduates are more likely to be employed, make higher taxable income, and aid in job generation.[22],[23],[24]
  • High school graduates earn a national average of $8,000 more annually compared to high school dropouts. [25]
  • High school graduates are less likely to engage in criminal behavior or require social services.[26]
  • High school graduates have better health and longer life expectancy.[27]
  • High school graduates are more likely to vote. During the 2012 presidential election, 4 percent of people who left high school without graduating voted compared to 24 percent of youth with only a high school diploma and 37 percent with a college degree.[28]
  • High school graduates contribute to America’s national security because students that leave high school without a diploma are not qualified to serve in the military.[29]
  • The nation’s economy depends on skilled labor. Business leaders report difficulty in finding enough qualified employees with the skills, training and education to meet their companies’ needs.[30]

For more information, visit: www.GradNation.org

Updated May 9, 2016






[1] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) through Public high school 4–year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR), by race/ethnicity and selected demographics for the United States, the 50 states, and the District of Columbia: School year 2013–14. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2013-14.asp.

[2] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) through Public high school 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR) for the United States, the 50 states and the District of Columbia: School years 2010-11 to 2012-13, Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_2010-11_to_2012-13.asp. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2013-14.asp.

[3]  National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Retrieved from http://www.ed.gov/news/press-releases/achievement-gap-narrows-high-school-graduation-rates-minority-students-improve-faster-rest-nation.

[4] DePaoli, J., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-report.

[5] DePaoli, J., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-report.

[6] DePaoli, J., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-report.

[7] DePaoli, J., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-report.

[8] College Board, Annual AP Report to the Nation years 2005-2014. Retrieved from http://research.collegeboard.org/programs/ap/data/nation.

[9] College Board, Annual AP Report to the Nation years 2007-2014. Retrieved from: http://research.collegeboard.org/programs/ap/data/nation.

 [10] DePaoli, J., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-report.

[11] DePaoli, J., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-report.

[12] DePaoli, J., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-report.

[13] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2013-14.asp.

[14] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2013-14.asp.

[15] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2013-14.asp.

[16] DePaoli, J., Fox, J., Ingram, E., Maushard, M., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation Data Brief: Overview of 2013-14 High School Graduation Rates. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-data-brief.

[17] DePaoli, J., Fox, J., Ingram, E., Maushard, M., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation Data Brief: Overview of 2013-14 High School Graduation Rates. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-data-brief.

[18] U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Retrieved from https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2013-14.asp.

[19] DePaoli, J., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-report.

[20] DePaoli, J., Bridgeland, J., & Balfanz, R. (2016). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.gradnation.org/report/2016-building-grad-nation-report.

[21] Based on All4Ed: http://impact.all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/the-United-States-of-America_2015.pdf

[22] U.S. Census Bureau. (2012). Statistical Abstract of the United States: 2012. Retrieved from https://www.census.gov/library/publications/2011/compendia/statab/131ed....

[23] Child Trends. (2014). Making the Grade: Assessing the Evidence for Integrated Student Supports. Retrieved from http://www.childtrends.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/2014-07ISSPaper2.pdf

[24] The Statistics Portal (n.d.) Unemployment Rate of High School Graduates and Dropouts Not Enrolled in School in the United States from 2000 – 2013. (Data file). Retrieved from http://www.statista.com/statistics/184996/unemployment-rate-of-high-school-graduates-and-dropouts/.

[25] The Alliance for Excellent Education. (2015). The Graduation Effect: The Economic Impact of a High School Diploma. Retrieved from http://impact.all4ed.org/#national/increased-investment/all-students

[26] U.S. Department of Labor (2010). America’s Youth at 23: School Enrollment, Training, and Employment Transitions between Age 22 and 23. Washington, D.C.: Bureau of Labor Statistics.  http://www.bls.gov/nls/nlsy97.htm; Andrew Sum et al. (2009). The Consequences of Dropping Out of High School: Joblessness and Jailing for High School Dropouts and the High Costs for Taxpayers . Boston, MA: Center for Labor Market Studies; Lochner and Moretti, “The Effect of Education on Crime”, www.nber.org/papers/w8605.

[27] Pleis J.R., Lucas J.W., Ward B.W. (2010, December). Summary Health Statistics for the U.S. Adults: National Health Interview Survey, 2009, Vital and Health Statistics Series 10, no. 249. Washington, D.C.: National Center for Health Statistics. Retrieved from http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/series/sr_10/sr10_249.pdf; Rumberger, Russell W. (2012, January 24). America Cannot Afford The Stiff Price Of A Dropout Nation. Silicon Valley Education Foundationhttp://toped.svefoundation.org/2012/01/24/america-cannot-afford-the-stiff-price-of-a-dropout-nation/; Muenning, Peter. (2005). The Economic Value of Health Gains Associated with Education Interventions. New York: Columbia University. Retrieved from http://www.schoolfunding.info/news/policy/Muennig%20-%20Health%20and%20Education.pdf.

[28] CIRCLE. (2012, November 15). Young Voters in the 2012 Presidential Election: The Educational Gap Remains. [Graph: Young Voters by Educational Attainment, 2012 Presidential Election]. Retrieved from http://www.civicyouth.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/2012-Exit-Poll-by-Ed-Attainment-Final.pdf.

[29] Council On Foreign Relations (2012) U.S. Education Reform and National Security. http://www.cfr.org/united-states/us-education-reform-national-security/p27618.

[30] Balfanz, R., Bridgeland, J., Bruce, M., & Fox, J.H. (2013). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic - 2012 Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from http://www.civicenterprises.net/MediaLibrary/Docs/Building-A-Grad-Nation-Report-2012_Full_v1.pdf.