WASHINGTON (AP) â€” The U.S. high school graduation rate inched up to 82 percent & the achievement gap narrowed, according to new federal data that raise concern among education officials & others that too many students still aren't getting a diploma.
The latest figures released Tuesday by the Education Department showed wide disparities in graduation rates according to where students live. Leading the way was Iowa, with a graduation rate of nearly 91 percent. The District of Columbia had the lowest rate, 61 percent.
For the nation, the graduation rate for the 2013-14 school year was up almost a percentage point from 81 percent the previous year, & was the highest rate since the department started using a new, uniform measure in 2010.
p>Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the new numbers as encouraging, saying the progress was real & powerful.
Duncan cited three-year graduation rate numbers that show solid improvement for black & Hispanic students & English language learners, with progress by all three groups outpacing their white counterparts.
Still, nearly 1 in 5 students are leaving high school without a diploma. "We have a satisfactory deal more to do to ensure that every child has access to a quality education," Duncan said in a phone call with reporters.
While noting progress among subgroups of students, the latest figures drew concern from groups campaigning for a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. To reach that goal, the rate needs to increase each year by at least 1.3 percent â€” a mark the nation has met for the last three years, yet missed for the 2013-14 school year.
"We've been talking approximately the importance of early warning systems to signal those students who need extra support, & we view this as an early warning indicator to the nation that we need a second act," said John Bridgeland, head of Civic Enterprises, a public policy group that is joined in the "90 percent" campaign with the Alliance for Excellent Education, America's Promise Alliance, & the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University's School of Education. "We view this as a real wake up call."
Bridgeland praised the gains made by English language learners, black & Hispanic students, & students with disabilities. But, he said in an interview that those gains are "not rapid enough to close these graduation gaps in a way that will obtain us to our goal" of a 90 percent national graduation rate.
The data showed that black & Hispanic students made progress closing the achievement gap with their white counterparts. About 72 percent of black students & 76 percent of Hispanic students earned diplomas in 2013-2014. For white students, the rate was 87 percent.
Vast differences exist across the country at the state level. Nebraska, New Jersey, Wyoming, Texas, New Hampshire, & Indiana were close behind Iowa, all with solid showings in the high-80s.
At the bottom of the list were Nevada & New Mexico, just ahead of the nation's capital.
The graduation rate is calculated by using a formula in which the number of graduates in a given year is divided by the number of students who enrolled four years earlier. In 2008, the Bush administration ordered all states to commence using this method, moving to a calculation that required them to track each student individually. The new method gives a more accurate count of how many actually complete high school.
Source: “Associated Press”