The report found that graduation rates vary widely widely across the nation's largest school districts. For example, the graduation rate in Fairfax County, Virginia (the nation's 14th largest school district) was 82.5% while the Detroit public school system (the nation's 11th largest school district) had a rate of 21.7%.
In addition to tracking graduation rates, the analysis includes information on areas of state policy connected to completing high school. These findings include:
For the 2005-2006 school year, students nationwide are expected to earn, on average, 20.5 total credits to earn a standard diploma. State requirements range form 13 total credits in California, Wisconsin, and Wyoming to 24 total credits in Alabama, Florida, South Carolina, and West Virginia.
States differ considerably in the variety of credentials they offer to students who successfully complete a high school program. While 17 states offer only a single credential, a standard diploma, six have multiple standard diploma options. Twenty-four states offer students exceeding the standard requirements special recognition, such as an honors diploma. In 26 states, students not meeting all the requirements for a standard diploma may receive an alternative credential, such as a certificate of attendance.
Between 2002 and 2006, the number of states with exit or end-of-course exams increased from 17 to 23. During that time, the exams also became more rigorous. In 2002, six states based their exit exams on tenth grade standards or higher. By 2006, that number increased to 18. The number of states financing remediation programs for students failing exit exams, however, remained flat.
"Our research paints a much starker picture of the challenges we face in high school graduation," said EPE Research Center Director Christopher B. Swanson, who oversaw the development of the report. "When 30% of our ninth graders fail to finish high school with a diploma, we are dealing with a crisis that has frightening implications for our country's future."