States with the Highest High School Graduation Rates

Graduation Rates

Photo by Andrew Schwegler

The National Center for Education Statistics recently released U.S. high school graduation rates for the class of 2008. The good news is that more public high school students across the country are earning their diplomas, with almost 75 percent graduating on time (compared to 72 percent in 2002).
The high school graduation rate is an important criteria of the effectiveness of a state’s education system. States with the highest high school graduation rates have obviously made a commitment to education, investing in programs and staff that help students prepare for college and beyond. A high graduation rate also indicates that citizens of the state recognize the importance of education. Young people armed with a high school diploma are better prepared to enter the workforce and have more options when it comes to choosing careers, increasing the chances that they will become productive members of society.
Although the U.S. population is densest along the East and West Coasts, the states with the highest rates of graduation are clustered in the central and northern portions of the country. These are the top five states with the highest graduation rates:

  1. Wisconsin

Leading the nation with a 90.7 percent high school graduation rate, Wisconsin has ranked either first or second for the past five years. The state’s continuing success in achieving a high graduation rate can be attributed in large part to the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction’s “Every Child a Graduate” initiative, which focuses on standards, instruction, assessment, accountability and school funding. The state also strives to ensure that the graduation rate for students with disabilities is the same as for all public school students.
Find out how to become a teacher in Wisconsin.

  1. North Dakota

With an 87.4 percent high school graduation rate, the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction is now committed to improving the number of college graduates (especially in the fields of math, science and engineering). The state expects to see a 13 percent increase in well-paying jobs that require some post-secondary education and would like to see more students become qualified to step into these jobs.
Find out how to become a teacher in North Dakota.

  1. Minnesota

According to Minnesota’s Parents United for Public Schools, an advocacy group, the state’s 87.4 percent graduation rate is due to raised expectations for students. The state has established rigorous course requirements and academic standards, and is working to narrow the achievement gap between demographic groups of students.
Find out how to become a teacher in Minnesota.

  1. Iowa

The Iowa Department of Education attributes its 85.7 percent graduation rate to several programs that target both students and school district funding. Iowa’s Rapidly Improving Schools (IRIS) programs is a multi-year initiative that targets high school reform and reinvention. The Iowa High School Project, a collaboration between the Iowa Department of Education and the International Center for Leadership in Education, provides support to struggling high school learners. Iowa has also provided a funding mechanism that helps school districts provide additional services for potential high school dropouts.
Find out how to become a teacher in Iowa.

  1. New Jersey

While the State of New Jersey is proud of its 85.3 percent graduation rate, Governor Chris Christie has challenged the public school system to increase accountability, reward highly effective teachers and empower parents. The Governor’s Reform Agenda seeks to expand professional opportunities for teachers. The Excellent Educators for New Jersey initiative is a pilot program designed to improve public schools by using evaluations to recognize and reward the state’s best teachers.
Find out how to become a teacher in New Jersey.

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