Good News for State High School Graduation Rates

The Education Dept. is touting new statistics that show more states are posting higher high school graduation rates that are part of a nationwide trend that has the U.S. graduation rate remaining at 80% for the first time ever, official said.

The new data, for the 2012-13 school year, indicate that 18 states have graduation rates at or above 85%, up from 16 states in the 2011-12 school year and nine in 2010-2011, said Joshua Pollack, special assistant to the ED Secretary. This is the third year that states are using a common method, called the adjusted cohort graduation rate, to calculate four-year high school graduation rates. Eighty percent of students nationwide received a regular high school diploma within four years of starting 9th grade in the 2011-12 school year.

“This progress is a tribute to the tireless efforts of teachers, principals, parents, and other educators and staff, and of the students themselves,” Pollack said.

States with the highest graduation rates:

  • For the third year in a row, Iowa has the highest overall high school graduation rate at 89.7%.
  • Kentucky, at 85.4%, had the highest graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students.
  • West Virginia leads the nation with an 83% graduation rate for English Language Learners.

These 2012-13 graduation rates are state-reported data – states are responsible for verifying the accuracy of these data. States that have been approved for ESEA flexibility are using these four-year adjusted cohort graduation rates as a significant element in their school accountability systems, Pollack said.

In 2015, the Nat’l Center for Education Statistics will release a report updating the national on-time graduation rate for school year 2012-2013. These on-time graduation rates provide a measure of the proportion of students who successfully completed high school in four years with a regular high school diploma, Pollack said.


To help spur this trend, ED is sponsoring a number of grants programs that will help improve the graduation rates. The First in the World (CFDA Number: 84.116F) competition offered $75 million for approximately 40 awards, up to $4 million each (no match required) this year. Another competition is to be released early next year and states and universities (applicants are encouraged to partner with high schools) can apply.

Modeled after the ED Investing in Innovation (i3) program for K-12 education, these grants promote innovation to improve outcomes in postsecondary education. ED encourages applicants to partner with high schools by supporting dual enrollment strategies and early college high schools that allow high school students to earn credit before arriving at an institution of higher education. These are 48-month grants.

About Frank Klimko

Frank Klimko is a nationally known journalist, grants expert and speech writer/speaker. He has years of experience helping nonprofits devise lists of the right funding opportunities and secure funding from these foundations and corporate entities. Clients have focused on an array of areas including child care, homeless, hunger and K-12 education.

Additionally, he is a Freedom of Information Act expert, who has helped numerous clients with securing proprietary information from the federal government.

Currently, Frank Klimko writes the Children & Youth Funding Report and Private Grants Alert, which are Washington DC-based publications. CYF is a daily publication covering Congress, the Education Dept. and the various federal regulatory agencies. PGA, another daily publication, covers the world of private philanthropy.

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