The national high school graduation rate has reached a historic high, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education.
And Texas is near the top of the class.
The report by the National Center for Education Statistics released Monday found that nationwide 80 percent of students received their high school diploma in 2012.
In Texas, that number was even higher — 88 percent of students graduated in 2012, second only to Iowa and tied with three other states.
The most encouraging news for the Lone Star State comes when you drill down into the numbers, revealing consistently high graduation levels across demographic groups, including students from African-American (84 percent), Hispanic (84 percent) and economically-disadvantaged (85 percent) communities, all well above national averages.
Echoing the words of U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, who called the report “ a profound milestone,” Texas Commissioner of Education Michael L. Williams lauded the state’s success in an agency press release. But he also suggested that there is “more we can do to help every student earn their high school diploma.”
That’s certainly true.
Statistics show that high school graduates fair much better in the job market than their diploma-less counterparts. A 2009 report by an education think tank, The Future of Children, found that earnings of high school drop-outs are about two-thirds of high school graduates.
A diploma can significantly improve long-term outcomes for individuals and society. Still, increasing the distribution of diplomas is but one measure of progress.
Students must graduate with the knowledge and skills they need to enter college, technical school or the workforce after graduation.
That means keeping standards high and ensuring schools have the resources to effectively serve communities of varying needs.
In Texas, these issues are, and will continue to be, the source of much debate.
Solutions that adequately address school funding, curricula, testing and standards all require constant attention.
But the new graduation data suggest the Lone Star State is getting something right.