High school graduation rates are now the highest they have ever been. Eighty-three percent of high school students graduated on time in 2015, according to the White House.
There are some stark differences across demographic lines. White students continue to lead the way with an 88 percent graduation rate, while only 72 percent of Native American students graduate.
While the report shows improvement across the board, a closer look reveals that some demographics still face more barriers than others. Around 88 percent of white students graduated on time, compared to 78 percent of Hispanic students, 75 percent of black students, and 72 percent of Native American and Native Alaskan students.
Students with learning disabilities or those learning English as a second language lagged behind the furthest, graduating at rates of 65.1 and 64.6 percent, respectively.
The numbers also varied from state to state, with Iowa posting the highest graduation rate at 90.2 percent, and Washington, D.C. seeing only 68.5 percent of students graduate. Still, D.C saw a 7 percent increase from last year, marking the largest regional jump in the country.
Officials said last year that the new Common Core-aligned tests likely spurred higher education standards across the board. The controversial learning goals are meant to provide a “set of clear college-and-career-ready standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts/literacy and mathematics.” Taking input from governors, state officials, and educators across 48 states, the program was built between 2009 and 2010.
One of the factors that has increased high school graduation rates—not mentioned by the Obama administration—is the proliferation of school choice programs. In Washington D.C., students who attend private schools through the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Program (DCOSP) have a 91 percent graduation rate, compared to just 70 percent for public school students.
Another study found that students who attend charter schools have seven to 11 percent higher graduation rates than traditional public schools. Milwaukee has also seen an 18 percent higher graduation rate among students enrolled in its school choice program compared to traditional public schools.
The results are clear: school choice has helped more students to graduate. Does this mean policymakers are at last embracing vouchers and charter schools? To the contrary, there is increasing pressure to curtail existing school choice programs and return to the traditional model of public education.
Despite the improvements in educational outcomes for black students as a result of school choice, the NAACP called for a ban on new charter schools this weekend. The organization cites “concerns over heavy-handed discipline and segregation.” There has been little credible evidence to substantiate the NAACP’s charges.
There is no valid reason to turn our backs on school choice, which has improved educational outcomes and graduation rates in this country. In fact, there’s only more work to do.