May 2015: High School Graduation Facts: Ending the Dropout Crisis

Dropout Crisis

America’s Promise Alliance, in partnership with Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University and the Alliance for Excellent Education, releases the annual Building a Grad Nation report, a detailed account of the nation’s progress toward the GradNation goal of a national on-time 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 2013 is 81.4 percent – an all-time high.[1]
  • For the third year in a row, the U.S. remains on pace to achieve the national goal of a 90 percent on-time high school graduation by 2020.[2]
  • Much of the gain made in recent years comes from increased graduation rates for students of color. Just over 70 percent of African American students (70.7) graduated in 2013, and just over 75 percent of Hispanic/Latino students (75.2) graduated in 2013.[3]
  • Since 2011, graduation rates have increased by 4.2 percent for Latino students, 3.7 percent for African American students and 2.6 percent for White students.[4]
  • A “dropout factory” is a high school that has a graduation rate of 60 percent or less. In other words, it is a school in which its reported twelfth grade enrollment is 60 percent or less than its ninth-grade enrollment three years earlier. In 2002, there were 2000 dropout factories. Today, there are fewer than 1,200.[5]
  • Since 2002, enrollment in dropout factories has dropped from 46 percent to 19 percent among African Americans, from 39 percent to 12 percent among Latinos, and from 11 percent to 4 percent among Whites.[6]

Opportunity Gaps: The Work Ahead

Unacceptably low levels of minority, low-income, English language learners (ELL), and students with disabilities are graduating from high school.

  • Graduation rates for students with disabilities and ELL students remain in the very low 60s.[7]
  • African-American and Hispanic/Latino students are still graduating 10-15 points behind the national average.[8]
  • Low-income students are graduating at a rate that’s almost 15 percentage points below the rate for their non-low-income peers.[9]
  • In 11 states, less than 70 percent of low-income students graduate. Nearly nine out of 10 middle- and high-income students are graduating on time, while only about 7 in 10 low-income students graduate on time.[10]
  • While students with disabilities have shown some progress, with almost 62 percent now graduating on time, they still lag almost 20 percentage points behind the national graduation rate.[11] Students with disabilities constitute 13 percent of K-12 public school enrollment, so achieving the GradNation goal will rest heavily on raising their graduation rates.[12]

Why a High School Diploma Matters

  • High school graduates are more likely to be employed, make higher taxable income, and aid in job generation.[13],[14],[15]
  • High school graduates are less likely to engage in criminal behavior or require social services.[16]
  • High school graduates have better health and longer life expectancy.[17]
  • 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.[18]
  • 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.[19]
  • 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.[20]

For more information, visit:

Updated May 29, 2015

SOURCE: America’s Promise Alliance

Retrieved on May 30, 2015.


For more information, visit America’s Promise Alliance.


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