An October 19 Huffington Post story headline reads, “Graduation Rate Gap Between Black And White Students Is Closing In Most States” and the U.S. secretary of education states “The hard work of America’s educators, families, communities and students is paying off, particularly after several years of intense work by educators transitioning to new, higher standards. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country.” The graduation gap between White-Black and White-Hispanic student groups in Washington declined from the class of 2013 to the class of 2014. In addition, the On-Time Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates (ACGR) for each of the student groups increased for the same time period. This is news to celebrate, but what follows is the rest of the story.
Over the five most recent years, the On-Time ACGR graduation rates for the White and Black/African American student groups declined by approximately two percentage points which represents a 2.4 and 3.1 percent change respectively (Table 1). The ACGR did in fact increase from the class of 2013 to the class of 2014 but the five-year trend shows a net decline (Figure 1). Over the two most recent years, the White-Black/African American graduation gap declined by approximately 1.3 percentage points but the five-year change indicates a gap increase of approximately 0.2 percentage points. The five-year change represents an increase of 1.9 percent.
The On-Time ACGR graduation rates for the White and Hispanic/Latino student groups declined over the five most recent years by approximately one to two percentage points. This change represents a 2.4 and 1.9 percent decline respectively (Table 2). The ACGR increased from the class of 2013 to the class of 2014 but the five-year change shows a net decline (Figure 2). Over the two most recent years the White-Hispanic graduation gap declined by approximately 0.5 percentage points but the five-year change indicates a gap increase of approximately 0.6 percentage points. The five-year change represents a graduation gap decrease of approximately 4.7 percent.
The On-Time ACGR declined for all three student groups in Washington for the classes of 2010 through 2013 and showed small increases for the class of 2014. The White-Black/African American graduation gap is large and virtually unchanged from five years ago. The White-Hispanic/Latino graduation gap is large but slightly smaller from five years ago. If the current gap reduction rate (for the White Hispanic/Latino graduation gap) of 0.15 percentage points per year is maintained, nearly 90 years will be required to eliminate the gap. Clearly, there is still much work to do.
The State Board of Education collaborated with partner agencies to complete the December 1, 2014 report for the Legislature on the Statewide Indicators of Educational System Health. The full report includes recommended reforms to improve educational outcomes that include high school graduation.