High School Graduation Rates Rose to Record High of 83 Percent in 2015

The high school graduation rate rose to a record high of 83% in 2014-2015, President Obama announced to a nation desparate for good news, during a visit to Washington D.C.'s Benjamin Banneker Academic High School. It's the fifth year in a row that rates have increased.

The president used these statistics to highlight the sucess of his education initiatives, ranging from expanding access to preschool to strengthening community colleges and expanding Pell Grants. He told the students,"We understand that no matter what you look like, where you come from, what faith you are, whether you're a boy or a girl, that you should have great opportunities to succeed." He also highlighted the gains specifically for D.C., which despite a historically beleaguered school system, had rates that grew faster than anywhere else in the country, from 53 percent to 69 percent.

Amid this good news,  it's important to keep in mind that while graduation rates increased across racial lines, they remain higher for white and Asian students than for black and Latino students. The latest statistics showed a 90% graduation rate for students identifying as Asian/Pacific Islander, 87.6% for white students, 74.6% for Black students, 77.8% for Hispanic students, and 71.6% for Native American students. Students of all races who identified as disabled had the lowest rates of all the groups survey, at 64%. 

The numbers also varied widely across different states. For example, as NPR points out, "Ohio's graduation rate has been flat, while Georgia's reported rate has risen more than 10 points, from 67 percent to 79 percent since 2010-2011." Some of that progress unfortunately may be due to, as the Atlanta Journal- Consitution noted, "questionable grading practices involving online credit recovery programs," which are an opportunity for students to make up for courses they've failed. 

Along those lines, President Obama stressed during his speech that state governments need to do their part both to keep increasing high school graduation rates and to help more students attend college. State governments "collectively provide the largest share of funding for public education in the United States, surpassing the total local government share of funding—including local property tax revenue," according to a report from the National Council of State Legislatures. The Federal government can do a lot, but it's going to be up to the states to make sure that the gains of the last five years aren't lost. 

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