High school students in the United States are graduating at the highest rate since 2011, and New Jersey ranks among the top states for graduating its students, according to new data.
The U.S. Department of Education on Tuesday announced that the country’s high school graduation rate was 82 percent in 2013-14. That’s the highest rate since the 2010-11 school year, when states adopted a uniform method of calculating graduation rates, according to the Department of Education.
New Jersey tied with Wisconsin for the third highest rate at 88.6 percent. Only Iowa (90.5 percent) and Nebraska (89.7 percent) ranked higher.
Disparity by Geography
The latest figures released Tuesday by the Education Department showed wide disparities in graduation rates according to where students live. Leading the way was Iowa, with a graduation rate of nearly 91 percent. The District of Columbia had the lowest rate, 61 percent.
Vast differences exist across the country at the state level. Nebraska, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Texas, New Hampshire, and Indiana were close behind Iowa, all with solid showings in the high-80s. At the bottom of the list were Nevada and New Mexico, just ahead of the nation’s capital.
For the nation, the graduation rate for the 2013-14 school year was up almost a percentage point from 81 percent the previous year, and was the highest rate since the department started using a new, uniform measure in 2010.
Achievement Gap Narrowing
At the same time as the rate improved, the achievement gap narrowed, according to new federal data which showed solid improvement for black and Hispanic students and English language learners, with progress by all three groups outpacing their white counterparts. Still, nearly 1 in 5 students are leaving high school without a diploma.
The data showed that black and Hispanic students made progress closing the achievement gap with their white counterparts. About 72 percent of black students and 76 percent of Hispanic students earned diplomas in 2013-2014. For white students, the rate was 87 percent.
How we calculate
The graduation rate is calculated by using a formula in which the number of graduates in a given year is divided by the number of students who enrolled four years earlier. In 2008, the Bush administration ordered all states to begin using this method, moving to a calculation that required them to track each student individually. The new method gives a more accurate count of how many actually finish high school.
While noting progress among subgroups of students, the latest figures drew concern from groups campaigning for a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. To reach that goal, the rate needs to increase each year by at least 1.3 percent — a mark the nation has met for the last three years, but missed for the 2013-14 school year.