High school graduation rates have reached a record high of 83.2 percent, continuing a steady increase that shows improvement across all ethnic groups, according to federal data released Monday.
In a press release out Monday morning, the White House touted the number as a "record new high" since 2010-11, when all states recorded a four-year adjusted measure of high school graduation. The highest gains were seen among English learners (up 8 percent to 65 percent graduation rate), black students (up almost 8 percent to 75 percent) and Hispanic students (up 6.8 percent to almost 78 percent), according to the White House.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, every group - from race to low-income students to those with disabilities - had increases in graduation rates, although the numbers vary from group to group.
The Obama administration credits investments in early education, technology, and financial aid programs for the gains in schools. "Right here in DC, in just five years, the graduation - the graduation rate in the District of Columbia public schools went from just 53 per cent to 69 per cent", Obama said. The national push for STEM excellence through the Computer Science for All initiative has also made significant strides, with 31 states now counting computer science education toward their high school graduation requirements.
"African-American, Latino students, in part because of the legacy of discrimination, too often lagged behind our white classmates, something called the achievement gap that by one estimate costs us hundreds of billions of dollars a year", he added.
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Currently, New Jersey students can graduate with passing PARCC scores, portfolio appeals, or passing scores on the ACT, SAT or Accuplacer tests. He said that repetitive work done in factories or offices can now be done by machine.
"Now, some of the changes we made were hard, and some of them were controversial", said the president.
In addition, federal efforts to improve graduation rates have helped pressure many schools to show gains, and skeptics caution that some schools are granting diplomas to students who lack the skills they need to succeed after high school. Iowa had the highest rate, with 90.8, while New Mexico had the lowest, with 68.6.
The District - which is entirely comprised of an urban area - has a lower graduation rate than any state.