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More Americans are graduating high school than ever before, but students with disabilities remain far behind their typically-developing peers, a new report finds (National Center for Education Statistics).

Nationally, 80 percent of public high school students earned a diploma on time during the 2011-2012 school year, according to data released Monday from the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics.  Sixty-one percent of those with special needs graduated (school year 2011-12), the findings indicate.  Economically disadvantaged students, students with limited English proficiency, and students with disabilities all had ACGR (adjusted cohort graduation) rates below the national average for all students at 72% (economically disadvantaged students), 59% (students with limited English proficiency), and 60% (students with disabilities), for the 2011-2012 school year. The graduation rate for students with disabilities in North Dakota was 68%; Minnesota 56% (2011-2012 school year).  For students without disabilities, the graduation rate in ND was 87%; MN 78%.

Dropouts face extremely bleak economic and social prospects.  Compared to high school graduates, they are less likely to find a job and earn a living wage, and are more likely to be poor and to suffer from a variety of adverse health outcomes (Rumberger, 2011).

Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic highlights four key areas that states/communities need to focus on in order to reach a graduation rate of 90%

  1. Chronic absenteeism, missing more than 10 percent of the school year, for any reason, is an early indicator of potential dropout. Often associated with lower academic performance, this can be seen as early as first grade.
  2. Middle grades are pivotal years, setting a student on a path to high school, college and career, or a path to disengagement and low achievement in key subjects.
  3. There are more than six million people between the ages of 18 and 24 who currently are not in school, in possession of a high school diploma or working. These young people cannot be forgotten, and need access to pathways to education and employment, and opportunities to take on the jobs of the future.
  4. Success in life cannot just come from a classroom education. Students need to develop additional skills, such as self-awareness and self-control, and collaboration and conflict resolution. Public, private and nonprofit agencies are working together to provide young people with access to positive role models, not just from adults, but also giving them the opportunity to learn from peers.

Attaining a 90% graduation rate will take a concerted, cross-sector effort to close graduation gaps and ensure all students have the educational opportunities and experiences that can take them into college and a career.

Information for this article came from:

Public High School Four-Year On-Time Graduation Rates and Event Dropout Rates: School Year 2010-11 and 2011-12. National Center for Educational Statistic.

Building a GradNation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic (2014).

Poverty and high school dropouts: The impact of family and community poverty on high school dropouts.  American Psychological Association.

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