Students of Color. Nationally, Hispanic/Latino and African American students are starting to close the graduation gap with their white peers. Hispanic/Latino students—the fastest growing population of students—have made the greatest gains in the Adjusted Cohort Graduating Rate* reporting data, improving 4.2 percentage points to 75.2 percent in 2013. African American students have risen 3.7 percentage points, from 67 percent in 2011 to 70.7 percent in 2013.
Seven states – Michigan, New York, Ohio, Georgia, Florida, California and Illinois – educate about 40 percent of the nation’s African American students. All of these states either have graduation rates in the 60s for African American students, or have recently experienced significant declines. Unless these states start to experience significant improvements, the recent progress made in raising African American graduation rates will stall.
One reason for the national improvement in graduation rates among students of color is there are now fewer high schools with low graduation rates, often referred to as “dropout factories.” While there were 2,000 such schools in 2002, there were fewer than 1,200 of these schools nationwide and 1.5 million fewer students attending them in 2013. The most recent data indicates an acceleration in this improvement. Between 2012 and 2013 the number of low-graduation-rate high schools declined by more than 200.
Roadblocks to graduation for students of color include: “toxic stress” from living in high-poverty neighborhoods; a rise in exclusionary discipline practices, particularly in secondary schools; disparities in academic opportunities, such as access to challenging classes and coursework that will help to prepare students for college and career; as well as lack of support for English Language Learners.
Students with disabilities. Students with disabilities graduating on time reached 61.9 percent in 2012-13, compared to the 84.1 percent national graduation rate for general population students. This is an increase of 2.9 percentage points since 2010-11, but almost 20 points behind the national average. Estimates show that the graduation rate gap between students with disabilities and students in the general population ranges widely across states from 3.3 percentage points to 58.8 points. State variations of ACGR data, coupled with variation in state allowances for special education guidelines, contribute to the disparities keeping special education students from reaching their full potential.