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High School Graduation Rate Tops 80 Percent, Report Finds

The high school graduation rate in the United States has reached 81 percent—a new milestone, according to the Building a GradNation report released Monday.

This reflects an increase of nearly 10 percentage points over the past decade. The average freshman graduation rate rose from 71.7 percent in 2001 to 81 percent in 2012, the most recent figures available. Since 2006, gains in graduation rates have been driven by a 15-percentage point increase for Hispanic students and a 9-percentage point increase for African American students, the fifth annual GradNation report finds.

The report is based on an analysis of new figures released today by the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. (See Politics K-12 for more coverage.)

The GradNation campaign's goal is to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020. It is sponsored by the Alliance for Excellent EducationAmerica's Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. This year's report is the fifth issued by the campaign.

"While we celebrate the nation's progress, we remain focused on the challenges ahead," the report said. "Despite our gains, far too many young people still do not earn a high school diploma, and the number of non-graduates remains alarmingly high among young people of color and those from low-income communities."

Graduation rates for low-income students in states range from 58 percent In Nevada, 59 percent in Alaska to 85 percent in Texas and Indiana, according to the report.

The report also showed progress in reducing the number of students enrolled in "dropout factories," where the 12th grade enrollment is 60 percent less than the 9tth grade enrollment three years prior. There are 648 fewer high schooled deems dropout factories, with 1.2 million fewer students attending them in 2012, compared with 2002—a decline of 47 percent, the GradNation reports.

To reach the 90 percent graduation goal, the report suggests policymakers should look beyond academic improvements and consider the social/emotional learning needs of students and promote parental involvement.

In response to the GradNation report, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released a statement.

"As a country, we owe a debt of gratitude to the teachers, students and families whose hard work has helped us reach an 80 percent high school graduation rate," he said. "But even as we celebrate this remarkable achievement, our students have limitless potential and  we owe it to all of our children to work together so they all can achieve at higher levels."

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