High school students in the United States are graduating at higher rates than ever before, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education. The trend includes progress among African-American students, leading to an erosion of the racial gap in graduation rates.
In the 2013-14 school year, 82 percent of eligible high school seniors graduated—it is the highest percentage since a standard means of calculating graduation rates was adopted by the states five years ago and the fourth consecutive rise in graduation rates.
“America’s students have achieved another record milestone by improving graduation rates for a fourth year,” U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement. “The hard work of teachers, administrators, students and their families has made these gains possible and as a result many more students will have a better chance of going to college, getting a good job, owning their own home, and supporting a family. We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we’re seeing promising gains, including for students of color.”
When broken down by race, the data shows that Black students graduated at a rate of 72.5 percent in 2013-14. That was an improvement from 67 percent in 2010-11.
Among White students, however, the graduation rate in 2013-14 was 87.2 percent—an almost 15 percentage point difference to that of Black students.
While the racial gap is still significant, the findings do indicate signs of positive change—in 2010-11, the achievement gap in graduation rates was 17 percent compared to a 14.7 percent difference three years later.
Officials said they are committed to bridging those divides even more.
“It is encouraging to see our graduation rate on the rise and I applaud the hard work we know it takes to see this increase,” said Delegated Deputy Secretary John King, of the U.S. Education Department. “But too many students never get their diploma, never walk across the graduation stage and while our dropout numbers are also decreasing, we remain committed to urgently closing the gaps that still exist in too many schools and in too many communities.”