High school graduation rates were on the rise during the 2013-2014 school year, according to new preliminary data released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education. The numbers also show that the graduation rate gap between white and black students and white and Hispanic students is decreasing in many states -- a positive sign.
The new data comes from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), a branch of the Education Department. NCES is expected to release more graduation data in upcoming months, including the nation's latest overall high school graduation rate. A record high of 81 percent of students graduated from high school in four years during the 2012-2013 school year.
The preliminary data released Monday did not give an overall graduation rate for 2013-2014, though it did list rates for individual states. Thirty-six states experienced an increase in graduation rates, while six saw decreases, according to a press release from the Education Department.
Twenty-eight states saw decreases in the graduation rate gap between black and white students, as shown in the graph and map below:
The data offers one bit of bad news as well: The graduation rate gap between economically disadvantaged students and all other students stayed the same or increased in more states than it decreased in the 2013-2014 year. That means states aren't doing enough to close the gap between kids from disadvantaged backgrounds and their wealthier peers.
Still, U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan praised the new numbers, saying they show progress.
“The hard work of America’s educators, families, communities and students is paying off, particularly after several years of intense work by educators transitioning to new, higher standards. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country,” Duncan said in a statement. “While these gains are promising, we know that we have a long way to go in improving educational opportunities for every student -- no matter their zip code -- for the sake of our young people and our nation’s economic strength.”
The new data comes weeks after Duncan announced that he would be stepping down from his post in December to spend more time with his family. He is being replaced by John King, who will serve as the acting U.S. secretary of education. King served as the New York commissioner of education until 2014, when he started work for the U.S. Department of Education as a senior official.