Here’s a piece of good news: for the fourth year in a row, the graduation rate in U.S. high schools has reached the highest percentage it has seen since 1982 for the 2013-2014 school year. The growth appears to be a result of the uniform way these numbers have been tracked since 2010. This is good news that suggests some progress is being made in our public education system, though good news never comes without any concerns.
While the graduation rate grows, school performance recorded by the National Assessment of Educational Progress has fallen, and so too have SAT scores. Eighth-graders and fourth-graders are showing declines in math and reading ability, but while that’s concerning, University of Southern California professor Morgan Polikoff encourages us to consider the falling scores in light of the greater progress that has been made in education as a whole. “I don’t think we need to put too much stock in one year’s test results given the tremendous progress that’s been made over the years,” Polikoff said.
The statistic for the recent school year indicates that a whopping 81% of high schoolers graduated, but NPR suggests that that number is a little too easy, and not necessarily just with the recent statistic. High school graduation rates have always been low, peaking at 50% for most years. What this means is that the high rate we’re seeing now is the product of many things, and the measurement itself may not be quite accurate, and it may not stay where it is—though all signs point to a promising trend.
The Every Student Succeeds Act, signed by President Obama into law last week, will replace the previous administration’s No Child Left Behind Act. The new law makes graduation rates a mandatory part of state accountability formulas, and it requires status to focus on schools where graduation rates are lower than 66 percent. This law should help boost those rates even more, if all goes according to plan.