NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

U.S. Graduation Rates Disappointing

March 30, 2004

High school graduation rates are key measure of education success. However, by this measure, the United States is fairing poorly. A new study from the Urban Institute details how badly American students fare.

The study analyzed graduation rates for the nation as a whole, by geographic region and state, and for many demographic groups. The authors found that the national graduation rate is a disappointing 68 percent, with nearly one-third of all public high school students failing to graduate. Moreover, there are severe disparities within different social groups:

  • Students from historically disadvantaged minority groups (American Indian, Hispanic, Black) have little more than a 50 percent chance of finishing high school with a diploma.
  • In contrast, White and Asian graduation rates are 75 and 77 percent nationally.
  • Graduation rates for students who attend school in high poverty, racially segregated, and urban school districts lag from 15 to 18 percent behind their peers.

The authors argue that this low graduation rate has gone undetected due to a lack of in-depth national investigations into the issue based on solid statistics and methods. Understanding the depth and breadth of a problem, however, is a crucial first step to devising a solution.

Source Chris Swanson, "Who Graduates? Who Doesn't?" Urban Institute, February 25, 2004.

For study


Browse more articles on Education Issues