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Leaving Boys Behind: Public High School Graduation Rates


Leaving Boys Behind: Public High School Graduation Rates

Marcus A. Winters, Jay P. Greene April 18, 2006
EducationPre K-12

This study uses a widely respected method to calculate public high school graduation rates for the nation, for each state, and for the 100 largest school districts in the United States. We calculate graduation rates overall, by race, and by gender, using the most recent available data (the class of 2003).

Among our key findings:

  • The overall national public high school graduation rate for the class of 2003 was 70 percent.
  • There is a wide disparity in the public high school graduation rates of white and minority students.
  • Nationally, the graduation rate for white students was 78 percent, compared with 72 percent for Asian students, 55 percent for African-American students, and 53 percent for Hispanic students.
  • Female students graduate high school at a higher rate than male students. Nationally, 72 percent of female students graduated, compared with 65 percent of male students.
  • The gender gap in graduation rates is particularly large for minority students. Nationally, about 5 percentage points fewer white male students and 3 percentage points fewer Asian male students graduate than their respective female students. While 59 percent of African-American females graduated, only 48 percent of African-American males earned a diploma (a difference of 11 percentage points). Further, the graduation rate was 58 percent for Hispanic females, compared with 49 percent for Hispanic males (a difference of 9 percentage points).
  • The state with the highest overall graduation rate was New Jersey (88 percent), followed by Iowa, Wisconsin, and North Dakota, each with 85 percent. The state with the lowest overall graduation rate was South Carolina (54 percent), followed by Georgia (56 percent) and New York (58 percent).
  • Each of the nation's ten largest public high school districts, which enroll more than 8 percent of the nation's public school student population, failed to graduate more than 60 percent of its students.

  • Among the nation's 100 largest public school districts (by total enrollment size), the highest graduation rate was in Davis, Utah (89 percent), followed by the Ysleta Independent School District in Texas (84 percent). Among the 100 largest districts, the lowest graduation rate was in San Bernardino City Unified district (42 percent), followed by Detroit (42 percent) and New York City (43 percent).