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U.S. high school graduation rates rise; Georgia moves up a bit

Not the worst in the country, but far from the best.

Georgia now has the sixth worst high school graduation in the country; its 2014 grad rate of 72.5 percent puts it ahead of Alaska, Oregon, Nevada, New Mexico and the District of Columbia, according to federal data released today. Last year, Georgia landed fifth from the bottom, so there is movement in the right direction, albeit slight.

According to the AJC:

The grad rate for one fast-growing Georgia demographic group, Hispanics, rose to 64 percent, up from 62.6 percent the year before, but remains near the bottom nationally.

In its announcement of national trends, the U.S. Department of Education said:

New preliminary data released today by the U.S. Department of Education shows that states continue to increase high school graduation rates and narrow the gap for traditionally underserved students, including low-income students, minority students, students with disabilities and English learners.

The nation has posted record graduation rates for the last two years, with the highest rate ever of 81 percent announced in March and improvement across all student subgroups.

"The hard work of America’s educators, families, communities and students is paying off, particularly after several years of intense work by educators transitioning to new, higher standards. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “While these gains are promising, we know that we have a long way to go in improving educational opportunities for every student – no matter their zip code - for the sake of our young people and our nation’s economic strength.”

The vast majority of states – 36 – saw increases in overall graduation rates, while 6 states saw decreases and another 8 saw no change since 2012-13. The majority of states also shrank the achievement gap for black and Hispanic students, as well as students with disabilities, English language learners and low-income students. States that saw the biggest gains include Delaware, Alabama, Oregon, West Virginia and Illinois.

Since 2010, states, districts and schools have been using a new, common metric — the adjusted cohort graduation rate — to promote greater accountability and develop strategies that will help reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide. The new data reflect that more accurate measure.

Today’s economy calls for critical skills that go beyond the basics. To ensure the economic strength of our country, students must graduate high school ready for college, careers and life. The Department has invested more than $1 billion in early education; implemented strategies that improve achievement and close opportunity gaps, and awarded billions of dollars through such grant programs as Race to the TopInvesting in Innovation, and School Improvement Grants; and expanded college access and affordability for families.

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About the Author

Maureen Downey has written editorials and opinion pieces about local, state and federal education policy since the 1990s.