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2012 Spotlight

A Closer Look at High School Students in the United States Over the Last 20 Years


In the United States, the compulsory age for school attendance is determined by each state and the maximum age ranges between 16 and 18 years old (see indicator 1). Enrollment rates for 16- and 17-year-olds have exceeded 90 percent for the past twenty years. Over this same time period the percentage of 25- to 29-year-olds with at least a high school diploma or similar credential has exceeded 85 percent (see indicator 48).

In the last two decades certain aspects of the high school experience, and of the students themselves, have changed. Several indicators in this volume describe high school students in terms of enrollment, coursetaking, afterschool activities (including work), achievement and other outcomes, and their expectations for the future. In this section, we take a closer look at high school in the United States by examining how these indicators have changed, or not, over the last 20 years. Note: For those indicators where 20 years of data are not available, the earliest data are used as the starting point.

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