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High school graduation rates

Question:
What information do you have on public high school graduation rates?

Response:

This Fast Fact examines the percentage of U.S. public high school students1 who graduate on time, as measured by the adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR).2 To calculate the ACGR, state education agencies first identify the cohort of first-time 9th-graders in a particular school year. The cohort is then adjusted by adding any students who immigrate from another country or transfer into the cohort after 9th grade and subtracting any students who subsequently transfer out, emigrate to another country, or die. The ACGR is the percentage of students in this adjusted cohort who graduate within 4 years of starting 9th grade with a regular high school diploma or, for students with the most significant cognitive disabilities, a state-defined alternate high school diploma.3 The U.S. Department of Education first collected the ACGR in 2010–11.4 This Fast Fact concludes with a brief discussion of the private high school graduate rate, using a different measure.

The U.S. average ACGR for public high school students increased overall from 80 percent in school year 2011–12 to 87 percent in 2021–22.5 Over this period, the U.S. average ACGR increased by 0.5 to 1.4 percentage points each year, except in 2020–21. The U.S. average ACGR fell by 0.4 percentage points in the first full school year of the coronavirus pandemic (from 2019–20 to 2020–21)6 but recovered by 2021–22.

In 2021–22, the ACGR ranged from 76 percent in the District of Columbia to 91 percent in West Virginia. Forty states reported ACGRs from 80 percent to less than 90 percent. Of the 46 states and the District of Columbia that had data available in both 2020–21 and 2021–22, ACGR differed by 1 percentage point or less between these years in 37 states.

ACGR data for 2021–22 are also available for Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools and Puerto Rico. The ACGR was 75 percent for BIE schools and 74 percent for Puerto Rico.

In 2021–22, the ACGRs for American Indian/Alaska Native7 (74 percent), Black (81 percent), and Hispanic (83 percent) public high school students were below the U.S. average ACGR of 87 percent. The ACGRs for Asian/Pacific Islander8 (94 percent) and White (90 percent) students were above the U.S. average ACGR.9 Across states, the ACGRs for American Indian/Alaska Native students

Across states, the ACGRs for Asian/Pacific Islander students

Across states, the ACGRs for Black students

Across states, the ACGRs for Hispanic students

Across states, the ACGRs for White students

Across states, the ACGRs for students of Two or more races

In 2021–22, the ACGRs in Puerto Rico were

The ACGR for American Indian/Alaska Native students in BIE schools was 75 percent.

ACGR data are not available for private school students. However, a different measure of graduation rates is available from the Private School Universe Survey (PSS). Whereas the ACGR is based on an adjusted cohort of 9th-graders, PSS provides data on the percentage of 12th-graders who complete high school in a given year, without accounting for when they began 9th grade.16 Among 12th-graders who were enrolled in private schools in fall 2020, some 96 percent graduated in 2020–21.


1 Unless otherwise noted, includes students in public schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
2 For general technical notes related to data analysis, data interpretation, rounding, and other considerations, please refer to the Condition of Education Reader’s Guide.
3 Before 2017–18, the definition of ACGR included regular high school diplomas only.
4 The ACGR is considered the most accurate measure available for reporting on-time graduation rates. For more information, see Seastrom, M., Chapman, C., Stillwell, R., McGrath, D., Peltola, P., Dinkes, R., and Xu, Z. (2006). User’s Guide to Computing High School Graduation Rates, Volume 2: Technical Evaluation of Proxy Graduation Indicators (NCES 2006-605). U.S. Department of Education. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics. Retrieved March 18, 2021, from https://nces.ed.gov/pubsearch/pubsinfo.asp?pubid=2006605.
5 The U.S. average ACGR includes imputed data for states when data are not available. For example, in 2021–22, New Mexico and Oklahoma data were unavailable. Therefore, neither state is included in the state-level ACGR discussions. However, the U.S. average ACGR for 2021–22 includes imputed data for both states.
6 In 2019–20, some states may have changed their requirements for a regular high school diploma to account for the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. These changes were at the discretion of each state but may have resulted in less comparability in the ACGRs between 2019–20 and other school years.
7 Estimated assuming a count of zero American Indian/Alaska Native students for Hawaii.
8 Reporting practices for data on Asian and Pacific Islander students vary by state. Asian/Pacific Islander data in this indicator represent either the value reported by the state for the “Asian/Pacific Islander” group or an aggregation of separate values reported by the state for “Asian” and “Pacific Islander.” “Asian/Pacific Islander” includes the “Filipino” group, which only California and Hawaii report separately.
9 Due to nonreporting in several states, data for students of Two or more races are not available at the national level.
10 The ACGR for American Indian/Alaska Native students was 80 percent or higher in West Virginia. This value has been “blurred” to protect student privacy. Therefore, it is not possible to determine whether the ACGR in West Virginia is higher than the U.S. average and it has been excluded from this count of 7 states.
11 Because data from Hawaii were unavailable, discussion of ACGRs for American Indian/Alaska Native students excludes Hawaii. The District of Columbia is also excluded from this discussion because its ACGR for American Indian/Alaska Native students did not meet reporting standards.
12 The ACGRs for Asian/Pacific Islander students were 95 percent or higher in West Virginia and Wyoming. These values have been “blurred” to protect student privacy.
13 The District of Columbia is excluded from this discussion because its ACGR for Asian/Pacific Islander students did not meet reporting standards.
14 Data were not available for students of Two or more races in Hawaii, North Dakota, South Carolina, and Tennessee.
15 The ACGRs are not available for other racial/ethnic groups in Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) schools and Puerto Rico. Thus, BIE schools and Puerto Rico are omitted from some of the later discussions comparing ACGRs between racial/ethnic groups.
16 The 2020–21 graduation rate is the percentage of 12th-graders enrolled around October 1, 2020, who graduated in 2020–21.

SOURCE: National Center for Education Statistics. (2024). High School Graduation Rates. Condition of Education. U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences. Retrieved May 30, 2024, from https://nces.ed.gov/programs/coe/indicator/coi/high-school-graduation-rates.

Numbers in figure titles reflect original numeration from source Condition of Education indicators.

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