The U.S. Department of Education released a report of state high school graduation rates, which for the first time includes apples-to-apples comparisons among most states. Each state used to determine its own graduation rate; now states are moving toward a common method of measurement.
As Schools of Thought reported earlier, graduation rates for some states have dropped not because students are failing more often, but because the math has changed. The USDOE points this out in a press release on its website: "While 26 states reported lower graduation rates and 24 states reported unchanged or increased rates under the new metric, these changes should not be viewed as measures of progress but rather as a more accurate snapshot." The new data is based on a "four year cohort graduation rate," which also accounts for students who drop out or do not earn a regular high school diploma.
Across the United States, the range of state graduation rates is between Nevada's 62 percent and Iowa's 88 percent. The District of Columbia's rate is lower than that of any state, at 59 percent. Some states, including Kentucky and Idaho, are not using the new method and were not included in the data released by USDOE.
Looking at the data itself another picture emerges -- a gap between whites and blacks still exists, but an even wider gap persists between general graduation rates and the graduation rates of children with disabilities and limited English proficiency students. For these subgroups, graduation rates in many states are below 50 percent, and sometimes even below 30 percent.