High School Graduation Rate Hits Record High Nationally; Washington Continues to Lag U.S. Average

Today President Obama has some good news to share about high school graduation rates.

The nation’s high school graduation rate has reached a record 83.2 percent, continuing a steady increase that shows improvement across all racial and ethnic groups, according to federal data released Monday.

Washington posted a 2014-15 graduation rate of 78.2 percent, as shown in this table, unchanged from the prior year. (We write about last year’s performance here.)

Graduation rates are an important indicator of achievement and are included in our Opportunity Scorecard. But they are not the only metric that matters. As the AP story points out,

President Barack Obama welcomed the higher rate as good news, but the gains come against a backdrop of decreasing scores on national math and reading tests.

Education Secretary John B. King Jr. acknowledged worries about sagging achievement. “A higher graduation rate is meaningful progress, but certainly we share the concern that we have more work to do to make sure every student graduates ready for what’s next,” he said.

That’s why we also include achievement measures in the Scorecard. King’s comments square with what voters told us last winter.

According to a recent survey, 94 percent of Washingtonians believe it is very important or important to raise the high school graduation rate, which is currently 78 percent. Survey respondents were clear they don’t want to do it by lowering standards. Rather, a significant majority (85 percent) want to see a rise in student achievement. And, two-thirds of respondents think it’s important to have test-based requirements to ensure students master basic high school level skills before graduation.

And, across the country it’s easy to find examples of a disconnect between graduation rates and skill levels (also here).

It’s vitally important that Washington students have the tools they need to succeed here, as we emphasized in reporting on the new study by the Washington Roundtable and Boston Consulting Group. The Seattle Times editorial board cites the Roundtable-BCG research in urging voters to take responsibility for public schools. 

A new study from Washington Roundtable found a dramatic mismatch between the training of Washington students and the jobs that will be available in Washington’s growing economy. The study, conducted by the Boston Consulting Group, found that only 31 percent of Washington high-school students — about 25,000 from each graduating class — go on to earn a credential after high school, including college degrees and professional training certificates.

There are not nearly enough qualified applicants to fill the nearly -paying, career-building job openings the study found will be available over the next five years. 

For Washington students to land those jobs they need to graduate from high school career- and college-ready. And then they must earn a meaningful postsecondary credential. There can be no let up in our state’s commitment to providing every student the opportunity to learn and succeed.