NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


June 3, 2004

According to the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government, 75 percent of Whites graduated from high school in 2001, while 50 percent of all Black students, 51 percent of Native Americans, and 53 percent of Hispanics got a high school diploma in the same year.

Project researchers say that regulations issued under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act allow schools to all but eliminate minority graduation rate accountability. They suggest the minority high school graduation rate crisis is being masked by widespread circulation of misleading and inaccurate reporting of performance records:

  • Some states report a 5 percent dropout rate for Black students, when in reality, only half are graduating with diplomas.
  • Accountability provisions of the NCLB have been weakened: just 9 states hold schools and districts accountable for the low graduation rates of minority students.
  • And 39 states have "soft" requirements for student graduation rates, where federal sanctions can be avoided so long as a state can show progress for any improvement -- even a tenth of a single percentage point.
  • Two commonly used measures -- from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) and Current Population Survey (CPS) -- produce data that often dramatically underestimates the number of students leaving school with no diploma.

Researchers say if a minimum graduation rate requirement of 66 percent were properly enforced, 46 states and the District of Columbia would fail to meet this benchmark for the basic education of its student population as a whole or for at least one major racial or ethnic student subgroup.

Source: "Study: Only '50-50' Chance of High School Graduation for U.S. Minority Students, Weak Accountability Rules Found," Civil Rights Project, Harvard University, May 2004.


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