The U.S. high school graduation rate has risen for yet another year, to a new all-time high. But even as some celebrated the steady gains, others worried that the pace of improvement is slowing and that the numbers tell a false story.
Figures released last month by the U.S. Department of Education show that 84.6 percent of the students in the class of 2016-17 earned diplomas in four years. That’s a half-point better than in 2015-16, when the graduation rate was 84.1 percent.
Leaders of GradNation, a campaign to raise high school completion rates, rang an alarm bell, warning that it’s the first time since 2011 that the graduation rate hasn’t shown year-to-year improvements of almost a full percentage point.
Also, questions persist about what is fueling the steady rise. While many schools have focused energy on better supporting students so they can finish high school, studies and anecdotes suggest that some may have edged into dubious tactics—such as creating diploma mills with quick, online catch-up courses—in order to look good when annual accountability reports come out.
A version of this article appeared in the February 13, 2019 edition of Education Week as High School Graduation Rate Reaches Another All-Time High