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2019 Building a Grad Nation Report: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates

2019 Building a Grad Nation Report: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates

New In-Depth Analysis of High School Graduation Rates Reveals Progress is Real, But Slowing, Indicating Urgency to Double Down on Equity Gaps

The ‘Building a Grad Nation’ Report’s First-Ever Secondary School Improvement Index Shows More Than Two Thirds of States Have Increased Graduation Rates and Other Measures Of Academic Achievement, Mitigating Concerns Around Diminished Graduation Standards

The national high school graduation rate reached an all-time high of 84.6 percent in 2017, up from 79 percent in 2010 and 71 percent since 2001. Hispanic, Black, and low-income students have continued to drive this increase with Hispanic students reaching an 80 percent graduation rate in 2017, Black students climbing to a 77.8 percent graduation rate, and low-income students reaching a 78.3 percent graduation rate. This progress over the last decade and a half means that more than 3.5 million additional students have graduated on-time instead of dropping out. Despite these gains, progress has slowed, signaling the need for a concerted and coordinated response at the national, state, community, and school levels to meet the needs of every young person and close remaining gaps.

Connecting the Dots: High School and College Readiness

In recognition that high school graduation does not represent a finish line, this year’s Building a Grad Nation report includes a first-ever analysis of secondary school improvement to assess whether gains in high school graduation rates nationally and by state are accompanied by better preparation for postsecondary education.

“Many states and districts have worked very hard over the past decades to raise graduation rates and academic achievement,” states Robert Balfanz, Director of the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. “While considerable work remains to ensure all students are graduating high school prepared for post-secondary success, the secondary school index highlights that the majority of states’ efforts have paid off with more students graduating and being prepared for college level work.”

The 2019 Building Grad Nation report also provides the first-ever glimpse of homeless students’ graduation rates. Homeless students face multiple barriers to graduation above and beyond poverty alone, and preliminary data suggest that this population may have the lowest graduation rate of any subgroup in the country. 

Follow this link to read the full report.

To access state and district data and other #GradNation resources, please visit:

Building a Grad Nation is authored by Matthew Atwell, John Bridgeland, and Erin Ingram of Civic and Bob Balfanz of the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education and released in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education. Together, the four organizations lead the GradNation campaign, a nationwide effort to boost the on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent and prepare young people for postsecondary enrollment and the workforce. This year’s report, presented by lead sponsor AT&T and supporting sponsors Pure Edge and the Raikes Foundation, is the tenth annual update on the progress and challenges in raising high school graduation rates. AT&T’s support of Building a Grad Nation is part of AT&T Aspire, the company’s signature philanthropic initiative focused on investing in education and job training to create a skilled and diverse workforce.