High School Graduation Facts: Ending the Dropout Crisis


Dropout Crisis

Civic and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, released the annual Building a Grad Nation report, a detailed account of the nation’s progress toward the GradNation goal of a national 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 2018 is 85.3 percentan all-time high.[1] 
  • The increase in graduation rate means more than 3.8 million students graduated rather than dropping out between 2001 and 2018. 
  • Much of the gains made in recent years come from increased graduation rates for students of color, with Hispanic students making gains of 10.0 percentage points and Black students’ graduation rates increasing 12.0 points since 2011.[2] 
  • In 2018, 79.0 percent of Black students, 81.0 percent of Hispanic students and 89.1 percent of white students graduated on-time.[3] 
  • In 2018, there were 2,062 low-graduation-rate high schools of all types (regular, vocational, charter, virtual, etc.), down from 2,357 in 2017 and 2,425 in 2016. These low-graduation-rate high schools accounted for 11.0 percent of all public high schools enrolling 100 or more students with a graduation rate of 67 percent or less that reported an ACGR in 2018, enroll about 7.0 percent of all students, and educate approximately 28 percent of all four-year non-graduates.[4]  
  • The Secondary School Improvement (SSI) Index measures whether students are entering high school ready for challenging coursework, whether states are producing more high school graduates on time, and whether those students are graduating ready for college-level work using the metrics of scoring ‘proficient’ on 8th grade Math and Reading National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) examsscoring a 3 or higher on an AP exam, and the percent of students who graduate on time within four yearsAs graduation rates have increased, the Index shows that so has the number of students participating in rigorous coursework, and both taking and achieving on the corresponding exams.  
    • In 2018, 45 states saw improvement in three out of these four metrics since 2011. 
    • From 2011 to 2018 as the high school graduation rate increased 6.3 percentage points, the percent of high school graduates scoring a three or higher on an AP test improved at a similar rate of 6.4 percentage points. 
    • Fifty-two percent of states’ graduation rates increased in addition to at least two measures of the SSI Index. This shows that states have been able improve other academic outcomes and postsecondary readiness as graduation rates have increased.[5] 
  • The existing data show that as more students are graduating, the percentage graduating college- and career-ready is not declining. In fact:  
    • Analysis of recent data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey show that, for the first time ever, immediate postsecondary enrollment rates for low-income students match those of their middle-income peers.  
    • Hispanic and Black students have more than doubled their postsecondary enrollment rates.[6]  
  • A ‘Meeting the Moment’ plan was created to target the high schools where most of the non- graduates in America are found and ensuring states, districts, and schools are serious about on-time completion with systems that not only facilitate high school graduation, but also college and career readiness.  
    • The Plan identifies 22 states for accelerated action—19 states with some of the highest numbers of non-graduates, plus an additional three states with graduation rates below the national average.  
    • Distilling the data further, half of the non- graduates in these states are found in just 452 school districts and 887 high schools.[7] 

OPPORTUNITY GAPS: THE WORK AHEAD

  • Although steady progress continues to be made, the nation remains off-pace to attaining the goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020, which would require graduating an additional 174,152 students on time.[8] 
  • Most students attend high schools with a graduation rate already at 90 percent, but at the district level, half of all on-time non-graduates are found in just 4 percent of school districts, while at the school level, 28 percent of all non-graduates are found in low-graduation-rate high schools with 100 or more students and a graduation rate of only 41.8 percent.[9] 
  • Unacceptably low levels of students of color, low-income, English Learners (EL), homeless students, and students with disabilities are graduating from high school.[10] 
  • Data from the National Center for Homeless Education (NCHE) show that over 1.5 million K-12 students were identified as experiencing homelessness during the 2017- 18 school year.  
    • This marks an 11 percent increase over the previous year and an all-time high, which in part could be due to school and districts better identifying students experiencing homelessness.[11] 
    • Author calculations using cohort counts from 49 states plus the District of Columbia produce an estimated national graduation rate of 67.5 percent for students experiencing homelessness.[12] 
  • Graduation rates for students with disabilities and EL students remain in the 60s. For the first time in 6 years, the graduation rate for students with disabilities did not increase from 2017 to 2018, remaining at 67.1 percent nationally. After a slight decrease in 2016-17, English Learners’ graduation rate increased 1.9 percentage points to 68.3 percent.[13] 
  • Black and Hispanic students are still graduating about 6.3 and 4.3 percentage points behind the national average, respectively.[14] 
  • Low-income students made up 49.1 percent of the nation’s graduating cohort in 2018, but 68.5 percent of the nation’s four-year non-graduates with an average graduation rate of 79.5 percentcompared to 90.9 percent of non-low-income students (an 11.4 percentage point difference).[15] 
  • Recent analysis show that 16.9 million children do not have high-speed internet at home and 7.3 million do not have a desktop, laptop, or tabletThis lack of access disproportionately impacts students experiencing homelessness and students of color, especially American Indian and Alaska Native students.[16]  
  • In 15 states, less than 1,000 additional students are needed to graduate on time to reach a 90 percent graduation rate. Yet, the challenge is more daunting elsewhere, as 5 states will each need to graduate more than 10,000 additional students.[17] 
  • Half of the non-graduates in the 22 targeted states in the Meeting the Moment plan are found in just 452 school districts and 887 high schools.[18] 

WHY A HIGH SCHOOL DIPLOMA MATTERS

Receiving a high school diploma that is aligned with college- and career-ready standards helps ensure more students are on track to graduate prepared to immediately enter postsecondary education or the workplace. This means that more young people are prepared to be successful adults.  

According to data from the Alliance for Excellent Education’s “Graduation Effect” economic model, reaching a 90 percent graduation rate for just one cohort of students would mean the country would see a $3.1 billion increase in annual earnings, create 14,260 new jobs, receive a $664 million increase in federal, state, and local tax revenue, and save $16.1 billion in health care costs.[19] 

  • High school graduates are more likely to be employed, make higher taxable income, and aid in job generation.[20],[21],[22] 
  • High school graduates earn a national average of $9,204 more annually compared to high school dropouts.[23] 
  • High school graduates are less likely to engage in criminal behavior or require social services.[24] 
  • High school graduates have better health and longer life expectancy.[25] 
  • 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.[26] 
  • 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.[27] 
  • 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.[28] 

For more information, visit: www.GradNation.org 

Updated October 1, 2020 

[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 2017–18. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2017-18.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

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 2017–18. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2017-18.asp

[3] National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). 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 2017–18. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2017-18.asp

[4] Atwell, M., Balfanz, R., Manspile, E., Byrnes, V., & Bridgeland, J. (2020). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: https://www.americaspromise.org/report/2020-building-grad-nation-report

[5] Atwell, M., Balfanz, R., Manspile, E., Byrnes, V., & Bridgeland, J. (2020). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: https://www.americaspromise.org/report/2020-building-grad-nation-report

[6] Atwell, M., Balfanz, R., Manspile, E., Byrnes, V., & Bridgeland, J. (2020). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: https://www.americaspromise.org/report/2020-building-grad-nation-report.  

[7] Atwell, M., Balfanz, R., Manspile, E., Byrnes, V., & Bridgeland, J. (2020). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: https://www.americaspromise.org/report/2020-building-grad-nation-report

[8] Atwell, M., Balfanz, R., Manspile, E., Byrnes, V., & Bridgeland, J. (2020). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: https://www.americaspromise.org/report/2020-building-grad-nation-report

[9] Atwell, M., Balfanz, R., Manspile, E., Byrnes, V., & Bridgeland, J. (2020). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: https://www.americaspromise.org/report/2020-building-grad-nation-report

[10] Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Public high school 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR), by race/ethnicity and selected demographic characteristics for the United States, the 50 states, and the District of Columbia: School year 2017–18. Retrieved from: https://nces.ed.gov/ccd/tables/ACGR_RE_and_characteristics_2017-18.asp

[11] National Center for Homeless Education. (2018). National Overview. Retrieved from: http://profiles.nche.seiservices.com/ConsolidatedStateProfile.aspx.  

 [12] Atwell, M., Balfanz, R., Manspile, E., Byrnes, V., & Bridgeland, J. (2020). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: https://www.americaspromise.org/report/2020-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_2017-18.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_2017-18.asp.  

[15] Atwell, M., Balfanz, R., Manspile, E., Byrnes, V., & Bridgeland, J. (2020). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: https://www.americaspromise.org/report/2020-building-grad-nation-report

[16] Alliance for Excellent Education, the National Indian Education Association, the National Urban League, & UnidosUS. (July 2020). Students of Color Caught in the Homework Gap. All4Ed. Retrieved from: https://futureready.org/homework-gap/

[17] Atwell, M., Balfanz, R., Manspile, E., Byrnes, V., & Bridgeland, J. (2020). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: https://www.americaspromise.org/report/2020-building-grad-nation-report

[18] Atwell, M., Balfanz, R., Manspile, E., Byrnes, V., & Bridgeland, J. (2020). Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rate – An Annual Update. Washington, D.C.: Civic, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education, America's Promise Alliance, and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: https://www.americaspromise.org/report/2020-building-grad-nation-report

[19] Alliance for Excellent Education. Retrieved from: www.graduationeffect.org

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

[21] 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

[22] 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/

[23] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2018). Unemployment rates and earnings by educational attainment. (Chart). Retrieved from: https://www.bls.gov/emp/chart-unemployment-earnings-education.htm.  

[24] 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.  

[25] 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 Foundation. Retreived from: http://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

[26] 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

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

[28] 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://new.every1graduates.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/03/CE1011_Grad_Nation_rpt_revs_ExecSum_v1.pdf