College & Workforce Readiness

Southern States Report Making Progress on Graduation Rates

By Catherine Gewertz — October 14, 2009 1 min read
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There’s good news from the South: The high school graduation rate is rising, and is inching up to the national average. Half of the 16 states delivered graduation rates that matched or outstripped the national average.

Those are the main takeaways from a new report by the Southern Regional Education Board. (Our story has a link to the report.) And while it’s undeniably good news, you don’t have to scratch far beneath the surface to find the sobering stuff.

Even with the rise in grad rates, the South is still at about the same level as it was in 1991 (72 percent). That’s because of a big dip in the mid- to late 1990s (national grad rates dipped, though much more mildly, during that period as well, according to the SREB.) Even the two Southern states with the best grad rates (Arkansas and Maryland) still can’t get diplomas into the hands of 20 percent of their kids on time. In some states, that figure rises to 40 percent.

Page 6 of the report produces an ouch, though. That’s the chart that details how the states are doing getting diplomas into students’ hands on time. There is some good stuff (Tennessee, Kentucky, Delaware all gaining significantly). But Louisiana, Texas, and Virginia are actually losing ground by this measure.

There is lots of interesting stuff in here, including profiles of how Arkansas, Delaware, and Tennessee are performing so well. Take a look.

You might also be interested in a recent SREB report on students’ participation in AP and International Baccalaureate programs. There are a couple of huge ouches here (Louisiana: only 8 percent of seniors in 2008 took an AP test during high school, and only 4 percent passed one. Hurt me.) But by and large, the South has strong participation and passage rates.

A version of this news article first appeared in the High School Connections blog.