Until this week it was impossible to make meaningful state-to-state comparisons in high school graduation and dropout rates because each state had its own definition of what constituted a dropout. Invariably, states used definitions that would make them look better. The U.S. Department of Education has required states to use the same methodology to compare graduation rates, thus providing the most accurate comparisons available, and it published the results yesterday.
So, how does Virginia stack up?
Overall graduation rate. Virginia’s “four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate” is 82%, which expresses the number of students graduating from high school as a percentage of the number of students in the same age cohort that entered 9th grade, adjusting for students who transferred, emigrated to another country… or died. This a middle-of-the-pack performance, faring better than 27 states but worse than 20 others.
Interestingly, Virginia’s performance improves somewhat when viewed through the prism of ethnic groups.
Whites. The graduation rate for non-Hispanic whites is 86%, better than 29 other states and worse than 14.
African-Americans. The relative performance of African-Americans is even better. Virginia’s 73% graduation rate is better than the rate in 31 other states and worse than only 10.
Hispanics. Hispanics/Latinos do worse. Their 71% graduation rate is superior to that of 23 other states but worse than that of 21 states.
(The DOE did not report the Virginia graduation rate for Asians.)
Virginia is a major under-performer when it comes to dealing with children with disabilities. The state’s 47% graduation rate is higher than that of 10 other states but worse than 38 states.
Bacon’s bottom line: Overall, Virginia can say that its high school graduation rate is modestly above average compared to national norms. That’s not much to brag about. In a globally competitive, knowledge-based economy in which productivity is increasingly linked to educational attainment, China, India and other developing countries are raising their educational levels rapidly. The global competition for skilled jobs is intensifying. Thus, roughly one-fifth of Virginia’s population is destined to a standard of living based upon Third World-level wages supplemented by government-directed income transfers.
We spend plenty of money on education. That’s not the problem. Either there’s something wrong with our schools or wrong with our cultural attitudes toward education, or perhaps a combination of both. Fixing the problem starts with recognizing the problem.
(Hat tip: Larry Gross.)