New federal high school on-time graduation data: National average is 78 percent. Georgia rate is 69.9

New federal data shows a rise in the on-time high school graduation rate.  (AJC/file photo)

New federal data show a rise in the on-time high school graduation rate. (AJC/file photo)

Federal data released today shows that the percentage of U.S. high school students graduating on time has reached a level last seen in 1974.

Citing data from the class of 2010, the National Center for Education Statistics found that on average 78.2 percent of students graduated within four years of beginning high school. The on-time high school grad rate for Georgia was below the national average; it was 69.9 percent.

The dropout rate for male students was 3.8 percent. For females, it was 2.9 percent.

While minority students continue to post lower grad rates, Hispanic students nationwide saw a rise in their on-time graduation rate.

“The new NCES report is good news. After three decades of stagnation, the on-time graduation rate for high school students in the 2009-10 school year [78.2 percent] is the highest it’s been since at least 1974. It’s encouraging that the on-time graduation rate is up substantially from four years earlier. And it’s promising that high school graduation rates are up for all ethnic groups in 2010 — especially for Hispanics, whose graduation rate has jumped almost 10 points since 2006,” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.

“At the same time, our high school dropout rate is still unsustainably high for a knowledge-based economy and still unacceptably high in our African-American, Latino, and Native-American communities,” he said. “As President Obama said in yesterday’s inaugural address, our journey to equality of opportunity is not yet complete. But as this report shows, we are making progress in our schools toward living up to the American creed of equal opportunity for all.”

Here are other highlights from the report:

• Across the United States, a total of 3,128,022 public school students received a high school diploma in 2009–10, resulting in a calculated Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) of 78.2 percent. This rate ranged from 57.8 percent in Nevada and 59.9 percent in the District of Columbia to 91.1 in Wisconsin and 91.4 percent in Vermont. The median state AFGR was 78.6 percent.

• Across the United States, the AFGR was highest for Asian/Pacific Islander students (93.5 percent) . The rates for other groups were 83.0 percent for White students, 71.4 percent for Hispanic students, 69.1 percent for American Indian/Alaska Native students, 3and 66.1 percent for Black students.3

• A comparison of data from 2009–10 to data from the prior school year, 2008–09, shows a percentage point or greater increase in the AFGR for 38 states The AFGR decreased by a percentage point or more for only the District of Columbia during that same time period.

• Across the United States, a total of 514,238 public school students dropped out of grades 9–12, resulting in a calculated overall event dropout rate of 3.4 percent in 2009–10. New Hampshire and Idaho had the lowest event dropout rates at 1.2 and 1.4 percent, respectively, while Mississippi and Arizona had the highest at 7.4 and 7.8 percent, respectively. The median state dropout rate was 3.4 percent.

• Across the United States, the calculated dropout rates increased as grade-level increased. This pattern was also true for 24 states. The lowest dropout rate was for grade 9 (2.6 percent) while the highest grade-level dropout rate was for grade 12 (5.1 percent).

• Across the United States, the calculated dropout rate was the lowest for Asian/Pacific Islander students at 1.9 percent and White students at 2.3 percent. The dropout rates for American Indian/Alaska Native, Black, and Hispanic students were 6.7, 5.5, and 5.0 percent respectively.

• Comparisons between high school dropout rates in the 2008–09 and 2009–10 school years showed an increase of a percentage point or more in Delaware, Illinois and Louisiana. A decrease by the same margin or greater was also found in three states; Mississippi, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

• Across the United States the dropout rate was higher for males than for females at 3.8 percent and 2.9 percent, respectively. The dropout rate was higher among males in every state. The male-female gap ranged from lows of 0.2 percentage points in Idaho to highs of 1.7 in Connecticut and Rhode Island.

–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog

25 comments Add your comment


January 22nd, 2013
1:54 pm

This would be more informative if we knew the various states’ graduation requirements. Which states required a graduation exam at that time? How many credits did students have to have to graduate? What courses were required for graduation? Which states had dual-track diplomas? There are a lot of variables, all of which are apparently ignored here, in these numbers.


January 22nd, 2013
2:10 pm

Not surprising with Georgia’s higher than average minority and illegal resident ESL population whose demographics traditionally do not do well in school.

Mary Elizabeth

January 22nd, 2013
2:40 pm

From the link below: “For several years, Georgia officials touted improving graduation rates even though warning signs abounded that large numbers of dropouts were being ignored.

Former State School Superintendent Kathy Cox said some districts, under pressure to graduate more high schoolers, might have looked the other way when students left.”


January 22nd, 2013
2:40 pm


January 22nd, 2013
2:10 pm

Georgia’s rates are actually a great deal higher then I had anticipated given the points you made and the numbers posted in the article about separate demographic sub sets. Georgia must be doing something right.


January 22nd, 2013
3:19 pm

A couple of important points:

1) “On-time” graduation rate is an efficiency calculation and does not include students who graduate a year late.

2) The reference to 1974 in the opening paragraph is vague. Is it a good comparison or a bad comparison?

3) Recent census data tell us we have the highest population with high school and beyond ever recorded.

While there is much work to be done to get more students to graduate from high school on-time, this work is not for the schools alone. Poverty has a profound effect upon students and their ability to complete school. Without acknowledging these effects, we will not make the kind of progress that should be made.

It also takes resources – yes, that translates money – to get the challenging students through school.


January 22nd, 2013
3:43 pm

Too often I feel pressured to pass students who shouldn’t – because it makes the graduation rate look good. I had more than one student who would have failed last semester were it not for the results of the greatly curved End of Course Test. Had it been a final exam with a true raw score, the student would have (and should have) failed and retaken the course. Of course, any student that fails my course this semester will not graduate on time.


January 22nd, 2013
4:16 pm

Two more points.

Georgia is a very rural state meaning farms and associated small businesses supporting them are labor intensive. Dropping out of high school and working family farms and businesses is not an illogical choice for some, depending on circumstances and need.

There is no doubt that many students do not deserve high school diplomas and simply put in the time and get socially promoted – but that happens everywhere and not just Georgia.


January 22nd, 2013
5:08 pm

Lester’s point about the prison system is applicable here – we need a better class of students. We also, in significant numbers, need a better class of teachers. Probably, we need to wait a generation or two to get a better class of voters.

10:10 am

January 22nd, 2013
5:55 pm

Now imagine yourself an inner city parent without the private school options of rich folks like the Obamas, the Bidens—or for that matter, the GAE/NEA teachers’ union bosses.

Home-tutoring parent

January 22nd, 2013
6:42 pm

jHi Maureen,

Are you afraid to “home school” your children? You take one home, they all want to do it.

Believe me. once you take one kid home, they all want to do it. Try it. If you do it, it’s out of control… it’s a blast.


January 22nd, 2013
8:23 pm

Also, Georgia students receiving the Special-Ed certificate (in lieu of a diploma) also do not count towards a school’s graduation percentage. However, special ed students in other states (because of how those states have defined their special-ed certificates/diplomas) do count toward a school’s graduation percentage. This difference puts Georgia at a 5 to 10 point disadvantage. At the very least, the legislature needs to examine how other states (for example Florida and North Carolina) have defined their special ed diplomas to count in the federal cohort and consider modifying Georgia’s.

Proud Teacher

January 22nd, 2013
9:43 pm

The graduation rates are inflated. These are not the same graduation standards of twenty or even ten years ago. Students can fail a semester class and make it up on a computer class in just a few hours. Teachers are “highly encouraged” to see to it that no student fails a class because that would damage the student’s self-esteem and certainly make the school’s numbers look bad. This is encouraged even though the student’s attendance ie erratic, attitude is negative, behavior is explosive, and no family member shows up for conferences. The student would be better served in school, but we must remember the numbers!

Political Mongrel

January 23rd, 2013
12:01 am

It’s really more meaningful to know how many students finish even if they have to go an extra year (or even two). A fifth-year student is NOT a dropout, and some states do a better job of keeping students in to finish than others.


January 23rd, 2013
1:35 am

How has everyone missed this? “As President Obama said in yesterday’s inaugural address, our journey to equality of opportunity is not yet complete. But as this report shows, we are making progress in our schools toward living up to the American creed of equal opportunity for all.” These student who drop out are not being denied equal opportunity, they are choosing it. If the student and the family don’t see a value in education and drop out, then how do you force it upon them?

Pride and Joy

January 23rd, 2013
3:15 am

““The new NCES report is good news.”
Obvisouly, Arne Duncan wasn’t thinking about Georgia when he said the report is good news.
****A 69% graduation rate (GA) is something to be ashamed of, not proud of.***
And that doesn’t mean the student has actually learned what he needs to know by graduation time. All it means is that he didn’t drop out of school. That’s all.

Home-tutoring parent

January 23rd, 2013
5:30 am

Actually, I only gave my DIL one suggestion, as I don’t know how to make croissants: “Try letting the dough rise longer than the recipe instructs. Let the living yeast have more time to work than the recipe instructs, and see what happens.”

She’s an experimenter, so she was willing to “violate protocol”. She chose to let the dough rise in front of the fire place, instead of the warming drawer I heated for her. In addition, she wanted to test several fillings. Her chocolate, ham, and brie-filled croissants were “to die for” tasty and fluffy. When somebody can make delish, better than Panera croissants, on the second try, you know you have a “keeper” DIL. ;-)

I’m an experimenter. I wanted to make sourdough bread. A Sunset cookbook article revealed that San Francisco sourdough had a species of bacteria that a modern microbiologist isolated, and named Lactobacillus sanfranciscensi. As that bacteria was not avalable to me, I decided to use live yogurt containing another species of lactobacillus. It took a week of lamp-heating to grow a sourdough starter culture. It worked! The bread was delish. Second time, the starter turned pink. It might have been good, but I was too afraid to use it. Oh well, this what experiments are about, especially when dealing with live elements, sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t.

When we did home-education, we were freed from conventional-school scheduling. Our kids worked really hard every morning, but were mentally fatigued after lunch. “I’m tired of studying.” So we did non-arduous things ranging from painting and music to riding bikes to the beach and swimming in the ocean. We “compensated” for short days by studying on Saturday mornings and working 46 weeks per year.

(I remember taking math after lunch in middle school. Dummkopfs devised this schedule.)

In their pre-college years, our kids prepared for conventional classroom learning and dorm living by attending summer school programs at U Chicago, Washington U St Louis and Harvard, where their talents blossomed, and they received rec letters that catapulted them to very good colleges, where they worked really hard, tutored other students, met great girls that they married, and, overall, had a blast.

Most parents and kids are unaware that schools such as Duke, Northwestern, Johns Hopkins, et al. offer fantastic summer programs for middle and high schoolers that are great stepping stones to college. Most parents and kids are “don’t get it” that summer provides three months of time to learn AND have fun. It’s there for the taking. Grab that time-opportunity, or let it slip away.

People complain about budget cuts and school day numbers being pared down from 180. (Georgians, Oregonians preceded you.) Who told anyone that 180 days was optimal? Have you even considered how much farther your kids could advance with 240 days of instruction, a week off at Christmas, and 2 weeks off in summer? And not have to spend September revisiting the previous April’s subject-matter?

What happens in world-renowned research universities like Georgia Tech? Profs spend most of the summer doing research. Their grad students spend most of the summer doing research. They take a few weeks weeks off in July-August. Have you ever asked yourself why GT is world-renowned, but nobody’s ever heard of Georgia K-12 schools outside of Georgia?

My BIL and SIL’s public elementary/middle and private HS conventionally-school-educated son, is weighing whether to go to Arizona State, or U Montana. He’s a very bright young man, but his parents limited his prospects.

I have a good friend who went to Cornell and Johns Hopkins. She now lives in California. Her mostly-public-educated son, really bright, will be a borderline-admit to UCSD, while UC Berkeley is admission is out of the question. He can’t even think about going to his mom’s school(s).

I haranged her, “Give up your (six-figure) job! You’re brilliant. You can home-tutor Vincent. He’s too smart for regular schooling.” She heard what I was saying, but declined to take the opportunity to live in a small home (do you really need a 4 Bedroom /5 bathroom McMansion for three people?), trade in her Mercedes for a Toyota Camry and be with her son.

People have choices. The public-school-teaching readers of Ms. Downey’s column are smart people. But they don’t “get” how wide-open life is. Smart people choose how to spend their time. They don’t have to choose living under very-unpleasant constraints. I mean, life presents constraints, to be sure. But we have the ability to move away from very unproductive, not life-affirming ones to things that are… Cool!

DeKalb Inside Out

January 23rd, 2013
8:52 am

Texas Education Model
Why can’t we use the Texas model? Surely Texas has more ESL than Georgia, yet yet Texas is tied for the third highest high school graduation rate in the country. Texas graduation rates:

Asian students – 95%.
African-American students – 81%
Hispanic students – 82%
Economically-disadvantaged students – 84%

Really amazed

January 23rd, 2013
9:00 am

Reallly? I guess it is time to break out the bubbles!! 69% grad rate, so proud!!! Just pull up a Cherokee County school teacher web page. On it you can pull up student review study guide with answers and just memorize it for your next test!!!! True learning at its best!!!!! These students are NOT truly learning! I was able to pull up, under departments, looked under biology and saw each unit study guide and answers available just to memorize. This even showed me the review for the first semester exam. Whatever happen to having the student read, take notes and come up with own study guide, true college prep. Even after not making a decent grade, you can retake the test. The problem is parents don’t know this because the student doesn’t care enough to even retake it. Don’t worry because little Johnnie will get his grade curved by end of quarter anyway via extra credit. This IS happening!!!! My niece and nephew both tell me all of the time how they received their inflated grades. Yes, they will graduate but should they have????????? They can’t believe that my children actually have homework and have to come up with own study guides!!! They tell me how unchallenged they are.


January 23rd, 2013
9:24 am

Is it surprising that GA is at the bottom of the education totem pole? For the life of me, I can’t understand why someone would drop out of high school knowing full well that they won’t make any money. Oh wait, I forgot, they have the government.


January 23rd, 2013
9:43 am

Before we compliment Texas, please know you can get a high school diploma in Texas in one day or less…

DeKalb Inside Out

January 23rd, 2013
10:21 am

For $600 I’ll give you a High School Diploma and you don’t even have to take the online test. If you took the time to read the article, nobody recognizes these degrees … that’s what the story was about.


January 23rd, 2013
10:55 am

The State of Texas does; these degrees ARE counted in the graduation rate. Schools in Texas cannot discriminate against the degrees as they fall under the home school exemption laws. PBS had a whole Front Line Special on it:

Additional Reading:

Hispanic students and/or schools can also say students are returning to their country of origin and they are also no longer counted in the Texas graduation rate. Many of the students have never been to Mexico, Guatemala, etc. even for a visit. This phenomena is also covered in the Front Line Special.

Parent Teacher

January 23rd, 2013
1:27 pm

It’s called numbers manipulation. Each state records infor differently and has different requirements and rules that decide if a student is considered a drop out. In GA if you transfer to a private school, home school, online school or early admision to college you are initially considered a drop out. There is a good chance that these students will continue to be counted as drop outs unless the individual school is able to provide enough evidence to overrule the states judgement. No school in GA was allowed any appeal last year and this years data was sent to school districts last week and the appeal period closes tomorrow. This data was supposed to be sent in October.

Who stands to profit from low graduation rates? Follow the money and you will see the maddness in the GA system.


January 24th, 2013
10:39 pm

The system doesn’t work for everyone and I think that is ALL the graduation rate is capable of indicating. Some kids give up in frustration or to get back at their parents, others “drop out” for other reasons, including poor health or adult responsibilities. Think about this scenario…a student gets sick and is able to complete the semester homebound but the illness persists so the parent withdraws the student to homeschool. She is then considered a drop out unless she returns to school and completes her diploma on time. So the high school encourages the student to re-enroll when she is better. She takes a few online courses and is able to acquire a few credits and re-enrolls for her last year. She is able to pass all sections of the Georgia High School Graduation test and perform well on the SAT (high enough to qualify for admission at any 2nd tier GA public 4 year University). She has a recurrence of her illness and can’t complete her first semester back at high school and withdraws again to homeschool hoping to complete required credits for GA high school diploma. If she had been in the Class of 2011 she would have had enough credits to graduate. As a member of the Class of 2012 she is deficient in credits but has satisfied all other entrance requirements for college. She has several choices; spend the next year taking online courses to get the credits she needs to apply to a 4 year Georgia school; apply to a private college that might be much more expensive but which will accept the credits she has earned for admission; take and pass the GED and go to a TCSG school to earn some core credits and transfer to a 4 year Georgia University. Pretty ridiculous to think that in all of those situations she is still considered a high school dropout. Not having the money for the private college, she opted not to waste any more time and got her GED and will start at a local TCSG school in May. Not all dropouts are quitters, not all dropouts have parents that don’t care. Her experience was eye opening for our family and we feel lucky that she does have options. Ultimately it was her goal, her decision and her motivation and that is more than many kids have when they graduate from high school.

N. GA Teacher

January 25th, 2013
8:12 pm

We should be more concerned about producing graduates who have EARNED their diplomas than just the “percent of students who graduate”.