This study uses a widely respected method to calculate public high school graduation rates for the nation, for each state, and for the 100 largest school districts in the United States. We calculate graduation rates overall, by race, and by gender, using the most recent available data (the class of 2003).
Among our key findings:
- The overall national public high school graduation rate for the class of 2003 was 70 percent.
- There is a wide disparity in the public high school graduation rates of white and minority students.
- Nationally, the graduation rate for white students was 78 percent, compared with 72 percent for Asian students, 55 percent for African-American students, and 53 percent for Hispanic students.
- Female students graduate high school at a higher rate than male students. Nationally, 72 percent of female students graduated, compared with 65 percent of male students.
- The gender gap in graduation rates is particularly large for minority students. Nationally, about 5 percentage points fewer white male students and 3 percentage points fewer Asian male students graduate than their respective female students. While 59 percent of African-American females graduated, only 48 percent of African-American males earned a diploma (a difference of 11 percentage points). Further, the graduation rate was 58 percent for Hispanic females, compared with 49 percent for Hispanic males (a difference of 9 percentage points).
- The state with the highest overall graduation rate was New Jersey (88 percent), followed by Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, each with 85 percent. The state with the lowest overall graduation rate was
South Carolina (54 percent), followed by Georgia (56 percent) and New York (58 percent).
Sarah Carr notes that some question the methods used in this analysis:
Milwaukee public high schools have one of the worst graduation rates [chart] in the country among large school districts, according to a new report that takes the unusual step of trying to make comparisons across large school districts as well as states.
Tamar Lewin also takes a look at this report:
The report, “Leaving Boys Behind: Public High School Graduation Rates,” found that 59 percent of African-American girls, but only 48 percent of African-American boys, earned their diplomas that year. Among Hispanics, the graduation rate was 58 percent for girls, but only 49 percent for boys.
“It’s a fairly large difference, particularly when you consider that unlike differences across racial and ethnic groups, boys and girls are raised in the same households, so it’s not so easy to explain the differences by their community, or their income level,” said Jay P. Greene, an author of the report.
Mr. Greene helped set off widespread national alarm with findings several years ago that almost one in three high school students, and almost half the African-American and Hispanic students, did not complete high school. His research has been widely embraced by policy makers, though some researchers argue that his method overstates the dropout problem over all and among minorities in particular.