College & Workforce Readiness What the Research Says

High School Completions on Par for Black, White Students

By Megan Ruge — January 21, 2020 1 min read

For the first time in 40 years, the percentage of black 18- to 24-year-olds with a high school credential was nearly the same as that of their white peers, data from the National Center for Education Statistics show, but racial gaps remain for earning an on-time diploma.

From 1977 to 2016, white students had a higher “status completion rate” than black students, meaning the percentage of young adults out of high school with a diploma or alternative like a GED. In 2017, that completion gap closed to only 1 percent, measuring 94.8 percent for white students and 93.8 percent for black students. The overall completion rate was 93.3 percent for 2017.

By contrast, the national adjusted cohort graduation rate measures the number of first-time 9th graders who earn a regular high school diploma four years later, accounting for students who transfer in or out, emigrate, or die, in the years between. That rate for 2016-17 was 85 percent, up 6 percentage points since it was first collected in 2010-11. But the cohort graduation rate for white students was 89 percent, versus 78 percent for black students.

A version of this article appeared in the January 22, 2020 edition of Education Week as High School Completions on Par For Black, White Students

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