The nation's high school graduation rate is approaching 75 percent, its highest rate in 40 years, according to a new report from Education Week. Of course, that good news must be tempered with a sobering statistic -- an estimated 1 million students will fail to graduate this year, a loss of 5,500 students for every day on the academic calendar.
The annual Diplomas Count report tracks graduation rates across the country and calculated the national average at 74.7 percent for the class of 2010, the most recent year for which data is available. That's nearly 8 percentage points higher than the graduation rate for the class of 2000. Vermont had the nation's highest graduation rate at 85 percent with the District of Columbia finishing last at 57 percent. Between 2000 to 2010, graduation rates are up in 46 states, although the size of those gains varies widely - from a tenth of a percentage point in Virginia to 31.5 percentage points in Tennessee.
The nationwide graduation rate calculated by Ed Week is lower than the one released in a January report from the U.S. Department of Education -- 78.2 percent for the 2009-10 academic year -- which was touted as the highest level in three decades. Some disparity in reported rates isn't unusual. Until recently there were marked differences in how individual states calculated and reported high school graduates. Data reported for the 2010-11 academic year marks the first time all of the states used a uniform measure to calculate graduation rates, in accordance with a compact signed by the nation's governors in an effort to improve accuracy and accountability.