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Today’s High School Students Less Likely to Graduate Than Their Parents

Young people in the United States are less likely than their parents to earn a high school diploma, and states are not doing enough to reverse this trend, according to a new report released Thursday.

Federal law requires states to set goals to graduate high school students in time. However, nationally, one in four students fails to graduate in time. And for Black and Hispanic students, the rate is one in three.

“At a time when most middle-class jobs require more just a high school education, many states seem willing to accept remarkably high dropout rates,” says Anna Habash, author of the report “Counting on Graduation” from The Education Trust, an educational advocacy organization.

The federal No Child Left Behind law requires all states to set benchmarks for graduating high school students. However, the law leaves it up to states to set goals, and the report found many states aim very low:

  • Maryland has a graduation rate improvement target of 0.01 percentage point per year. At this rate, Black students would not reach the state’s 90 percent graduation goal until the next millennium
  • North Carolina has a graduation-rate improvement target of 0.1 percentage point per year. At this rate, Hispanic students would not reach the state’s 80 percent graduation goal until 2283

“A number of states have set the bar so low that they are basically telling parents, ‘We’ll meet our goals when your grandchildren’s grandchildren are ready to graduate,’” says Kati Haycock, president of the Education Trust.

New federal regulations are expected to require all states use a common system to track graduation rates and to specifically track graduation rates of minority students.

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