High school graduation rates are like the eclipse: Location matters

A state-by-state examination of the latest figures, from the 2022-23 school year, shows spikes and dips for nationwide cohorts of students, many of whom spent their early high school years on remote learning. 

The trajectory of high school graduation rates a few years after the pandemic’s peak is similar to the forthcoming solar eclipse—location is everything. A state-by-state examination of the 2023 numbers shows spikes and dips for nationwide cohorts of students, many of whom spent their early high school years on remote learning.

In Michigan, the 2023 graduation rate—81.77%—surpassed pre-pandemic levels of 80.6% and 81.4% in 2018 and 2019, according to recently released state data. In another bit of promising news, the rates rose for all of the 17 racial, ethnic and gender subgroups the state tracks, State Superintendent Dr. Michael Rice noted.

The rates for Hispanic, Asian and Black students grew over the last year by 2.49%, 1.18%, and 1.14%, respectively. Rice added, however, that graduation gaps persist among subgroups.

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Idaho’s high school graduation rates have been creeping up each year since the heights of COVID but numbers lag well behind the state’s goals, Idaho Education News reported. The rate wavered from 80.1% in 2021 to 79.9% in 2022 to 81.1% last year, giving Idaho one of the nation’s lowest four-year graduation rates, the website said.

Indiana is in a similar position. Though its graduation rate jumped by 2.5 percentage points to 88.9% in 2023, that number is below the record the state set a decade ago, according to WFYI.

Where graduation rates slipped

Though New York’s 2023 graduation rate fell slightly, the state is choosing to focus on some other, more positive numbers. State officials pointed out that the state’s high school completion rate has risen by 7.3% in the last ten years and enrollment grew by half a percentage point from 2022 to 2023. New York City’s graduation rate (87.3%) remained flat from 2022 to 2023, SILive.com reported.

Maryland and Minnesota both saw slight drops in their completion numbers. Maryland’s high school graduation rate slipped from 86.3% in 2022 to 85.8% last year, and state officials noted that these students attend most of ninth and 10th grades virtually. Graduation rates for Black and economically disadvantaged students rose at the same time the overall number fell.

In Minnesota, the gap in graduation rates between white students (88.7%) and Black students (72.1%) and Hispanic students (69.2%) remained wide as the state’s overall number slipped by just three-tenths of a percentage point, MPR News reported this week. Last year’s overall number (83.3%) was also below the record the state set in 2020 when 83.8% of students graduated, the outlet explained.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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