High school graduation rate hits all-time high at 81%

Secretary of Education says students now are more prepared for success in college

The on-time graduation rate for American high schoolers hit 81% for 2012-2013, according to data recently released by the Department of Education.

That rate is the highest recorded in the last five years, when the method used for calculating graduation changed. In 2010, all states began using a new metric called the adjusted cohort graduation rate. The measurement tracks the number of students from the original cohort who graduate with a diploma within four years, accounting for students that transfer in or out of the system.

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Before adopting the adjusted cohort graduation rate, states used different measures for calculating graduation rates, making it difficult to compare data across borders. In announcing the latest data, the Department of Education says the new measure also helps states identify and support districts with low graduation rates.

According to the data, more than half of states boast a graduation rate higher than the national average. Iowa topped the list with a graduation rate of 90%, while the District of Columbia came in last at only 62%.

John Gomperts, president and CEO of America's Promise Alliance, says a rising graduation rate over the last decade has meant 2 million more students earned high school diplomas.

In a statement, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised schools for achieving a milestone, saying, "We can take pride as a nation knowing that we're seeing promising gains… This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country" (Decarr, Education News, 2/16; Bidwell, U.S. News & World Report, 2/12; Department of Education release, 2/12).

The takeaway: In 2012-2013, U.S. high schools achieved a record graduation rate of 81%. One expert estimates gains over the last decade have added 2 million high school graduates to the nation.

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