Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

High School Graduation Rates in the United States: Implications for the Counseling Profession. (Trends)

Academic journal article Journal of Counseling and Development : JCD

High School Graduation Rates in the United States: Implications for the Counseling Profession. (Trends)

Article excerpt

In November 2001, J. P. Greene of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research published a report titled High School Graduation Rates in the United States. The report was commissioned by the Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO) because of perceived discrepancies between anecdotal information regarding graduation rates and data reported by the U.S. Department of Education. The BAEO was determined to examine the effectiveness of the nation's schools and the educational achievement of its children. Graduation rates are an important measure of the performance of the public school system; however, there is less emphasis on their importance than on other indicators such as test scores. This lack of attention, according to Greene, is due to the "confusing, inconsistent, and sometimes misleading way in which the rate of high school completion is measured" (p. 1). Greene's report used a simple, reliable, straightforward way to report high school graduation rates.


Greene (2001) discussed his method of calculating graduation rates. The study identified the eighth-grade enrollment for each jurisdiction and for each subgroup (White, African American, and Latino/Latina) from the fall of 1993. Then, information was collected on the number of regular high school diplomas awarded in the spring of 1998 when those same eighth-graders should have graduated. Adjustments were made based on population changes for that jurisdiction and on each ethnic/racial subgroup between the 1993-1994 and 1997-1998 school years, to avoid any distortion of the rate due to students moving. The formula used was the following: Graduation rate = regular diplomas from 1998/ adjusted eighth-grade enrollment from 1993.


Using the aforementioned formula, the nationwide graduation rate for the class of 1998 was 74%. By subgroup the rates were White students 78%, African American students 56%, and Latino students 54%. Results of the study were then broken down by state and by the 50 largest school districts. At the state and district level, there was considerable variation both in overall graduation rate and graduation rate for each subgroup.

State Results

Data were reported for all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Results indicated that Georgia had the lowest overall graduation rate in the nation with 57% of students graduating. Georgia also had the lowest rate for White students (61%) and for Latino students (32%), and it was third worst in graduation of African American students (44%). Six states graduated fewer than half of their African American students: Wisconsin, Minnesota, Tennessee, Nevada, Ohio, and Oregon. Seven states graduated fewer than half of their Latino/Latina students: Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina, Nevada, Oregon, Colorado, and Arkansas.

Iowa had the highest overall graduation rate at 93%, followed by Wisconsin, North Dakota, and Nebraska. Three of these states--Iowa, Wisconsin, and Nebraska--had the highest rates for White students. West Virginia had the highest graduation rate for African American students at 71%, followed by Massachusetts, Arkansas, and New Jersey. Of states with a significant Latino population, Maryland and Louisiana had the highest Latino graduation rates.

Greene (2001) discussed disparities between White and minority graduation rates and noted that many of the states with high White student graduation rates (Wisconsin, Minnesota, Nebraska, and Iowa) had some of the lowest minority student graduation rates. He stated, "Interestingly all four of these states are predominantly rural, white states with concentrated, smaller minority and urban populations. This may reveal that the problem of low graduation rates is really an urban problem" (p. 4).

District Results

Data were reported for the 50 largest school districts in the country. Results demonstrated that Cleveland, Ohio, had the lowest overall high school graduation rate at 28%, followed by Memphis, Tennessee; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Columbus, Ohio. …

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