New Data Highlights Growing High School Graduation Gaps

New Data Highlights Growing High School Graduation Gaps

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This post was originally published on the website of America’s Promise Alliance. It is reprinted here with permission.

The nation’s high school graduation rate recently reached a record high of 82.3%, driven largely by improvements among traditionally underserved students. But significant gaps remain, particularly for low-income students, according to a new data brief from the GradNation campaign.

[Related: Graduation Rates Rise, But Do Diplomas Have Value?]

The 2016 Building a Grad Nation Data Brief: Overview of 2013-14 High School Graduation Rates released by Civic Enterprises and Everyone Graduates Center, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, shows that nationally 74.6% of low-income students graduated on time compared to 89% of non-low income students–a 14.4 percentage point gap.

The Data Brief was released as part of the GradNation campaign, led by America’s Promise, to raise high school graduation rates to 90% by 2020.

(Check your state’s progress in reaching 90% for all students.)

The Gap Facing Low income Students

Nearly half–47%–of the nation’s 2014 graduating class came from low-income families, and nearly two-thirds of the states have public school student populations that are at least 40% low income.

“In low-graduation-rate schools, low-income students are overwhelmingly the largest subgroup represented,” said Rachael Fortune, a director of alliance engagement at America’s Promise. “Clearly, this is a segment of students that must be better supported if the country is to graduate 90% of all students by 2020. We encourage state and local leaders to use data to set goals, then re-double efforts to reach them.”

Sixteen states graduate less than 70% of low-income students. In those states, researchers estimate that nearly 191,000 low-income students did not graduate on time with a traditional diploma.

The graduation gap between low-income and non-low income students ranges from a high of 25.6 percentage points in South Dakota to a low of 4 percentage points in Indiana.

States with Biggest Gaps for Low income Students

Size of Income Gap in HS Grad Rate vs. Non-Low income Student Grad Rates

Low income Grad Rate
















Minnesota Tackles Low income Gap

Despite an overall graduation rate of 81.2%, the research shows that Minnesota has one of the nation’s largest graduation gaps between low income and non-low income students–23.6 percentage points.

Four out of 10 students in the state of Minnesota are low income and they are graduating at a rate of nearly 70%. Minnesota still has almost 7,300 students enrolled in low-graduation-rate high schools, defined as schools that have a graduation rate of less than 67%.

But Minnesota is working to change those numbers.

The GradNation State Activation Initiative, a three-year grant collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson, helps support a statewide campaign to mobilize Minnesotans to increase graduation rates for all students.

One of the grantees, Minnesota Alliance with Youth, through its GradMinnesota initiative, is driving the work through the development of a statewide communications campaign, the creation of a comprehensive online resource library for educators and practitioners, and the endorsement of legislation that advances the group’s seven recommendations.

GradMinnesota is a statewide coalition in partnership with the governor’s office and the Minnesota Department of Education.

Based on research, effective practices, input from young people and other key stakeholders, GradMinnesota offers seven key recommendations to increase student engagement and raise high school graduation rates. These include

  • replacing exclusionary disciplinary policies with more effective alternatives;
  • heeding data-based early warning indicators and providing targeted support to students who are disengaging;
  • providing transportation to ensure equitable access to learning opportunities such as after school programs, alternative learning centers, or college courses.

Educators across the state are adopting strategies that will work for their students.

At West Education Center Alternative School in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Alexia Poppy-Finley, assistant supervisor, said, “We pride ourselves on strong relationships with students. It’s an approach that helps the teachers and staff address the whole student and respond to emotional and social as well as academic needs.”