Arizona’s high school graduation rate was 76 percent in 2012, approaching the nation’s graduation rate, which is at an all-time high of 80 percent, according to the 2014 Building a GradNation Report: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic released in late April by America’s Promise Alliance.
While the improved rates are “certainly worth celebrating,” much more work needs to be done, wrote Jim Hull, senior policy analyst with the Center for Public Education and the National School Boards Association in a blog response on the report’s release.
Graduation rates were calculated by totaling all students who started ninth grade in fall 2009, adjusting for students who transferred in or out, and dividing that number by the students who graduated high school by summer 2012 with a standard high school diploma. The GradNation report does not count GEDs or certificates of attendance.
The national graduation rate would have increased by 5 percentage points to 85 percent if students who graduated high school within six years were included, according to the Center for Public Education’s report “Better Late Than Never.”
While Arizona’s gap remains small between low-income students’ graduation rates, 71 percent, and non-low income students’ graduation rates, 79 percent, it is among seven states where the graduation rate for middle- and high-income students remains below the national average, according to the GradNation report.
The report also noted that nationwide more Hispanic and African-American students are graduating on time as graduation standards have become tougher.
National graduation rates have increased by 15 percentage points for Hispanic students from 2006 to 2012, 9 percentage points for African-American students, and 5 percentage points for white students, according to the National School Boards Association.
In Arizona, 70 percent of Hispanic students graduate within four years, 71 percent of African-American students, 63 percent of Native American students, 84 percent of white students, 85 percent of Asian-American/Pacific Islander students, and 24 percent of limited English proficient students, according to the GradNation report.
Nationwide the graduation rate for students with disabilities is 20 percent below the national graduation rate. In Arizona, 65 percent of students with disabilities graduate in four years, a gap of just 10 percent from the state’s graduation rate and 15 percent from the national graduation rate.
To reach GradNation’s goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020, the report’s authors noted that it will take a cross-sector effort to reach that level, including:
- Close the achievement gap between low-income and middle- and high-income students
- Turnaround schools where less than 60 percent of students graduate on time
- Increase the graduation rate for students with disabilities, who make up 13 percent of all students nationwide, which remains 20 percent lower than the national rate
- Focus on California which has 14 percent of the nation’s students and 20 percent of the nation’s low-income students
- Raise graduation rates for African-American young men in Midwestern and Southern states where rates range from the high 50s to the low 60s
Other efforts identified in the GradNation report as necessary to increasing the rate were
- Lowering chronic absenteeism
- Providing college and career pathways for middle school students
- Reducing the number of young people ages 16 to 24 neither working nor in school and providing pathways for them back to school
- Helping students develop skills in self awareness, self control, persistence, collaboration and conflict resolution
- Providing students opportunities for peer learning, access to additional support systems and positive role models