- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Research on high school graduation rates has found that on a national scale roughly 30 percent of students will fail to finish school with their peers or earn a regular diploma.

Although the figure does not account for students who take more time to graduate or who receive a different type of diploma, the Editorial Projects in Education (EPE) Research Center says the number heralds potential economic and social problems.

“There are some students who are held back or who graduate with different credentials,” said Christopher Swanson, director of EPE’s Research Center. “However, we do know that the numbers wouldn’t be all that different even if those factors were included. Most high schoolers who are held back will not graduate.”

The report also indicates that the majority of students who leave school early are ninth-graders.

“Compared to students who earn a diploma, dropouts are more likely to be unemployed, earn lower wages and have higher rates of public assistance,” Lynn Olson, managing editor for special projects at Education Week, said yesterday as the study was made public.

Cecilia Rouse, an economist at Princeton University, said a single 18-year-old dropout will earn $260,000 less in income over a lifetime and contribute $60,000 less in federal and state income taxes.

“The fact that most dropouts are falling out of the high school pipeline with very little academic credit underscores the importance of fixing the problem,” Mr. Swanson said.

Another one of the EPE’s discoveries was the disparity in rates among racial and ethnic groups.

The 2002-03 graduation rate for white students increased to 76.2 percent. The percentage of black students graduating on time was higher than the rate of the late 1990s but still hovered near 50 percent.

The rate for Asian students remained the highest at 77 percent, and the rate of Hispanics graduating held steady at 55 percent.

In every racial and ethnic group examined by the EPE Research Center, rates for girls topped those of their male classmates.

The EPE said the research allows an examination of graduation rates for districts within a state. For instance, the graduation rate for the state of Michigan was last reported at 66.4 percent, but in the district of Detroit, the rate was found to be an abysmal 21.7 percent, the lowest in the nation among large school districts.

“Finding the graduation rate is not simple. In fact, until last October, the U.S. Department of Education did not report an annual public school graduation rate for the nation,” Mr. Swanson said. “Now we have a more complicated picture. By reporting more actual data, we can help fix low rates.”

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