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Wisconsin graduation rate highest in 5 years, but gaps remain for poor, minorities

February 13, 2019

The class of 2018 at high schools in Wisconsin had the highest graduation rate in five years, but significant gaps still exist among minorities, the poor and other student groups.

The Department of Public Instruction released graduation rate numbers on Tuesday, showing the overall graduation rate for students now up to 89.6 percent, jumping a point since the 2013-14 year.

This is for students earning a regular high school diploma in four years.

Subgroup graduation rates were up from the previous year for the most part, but gaps still exist.

“Disparities in graduation rates by race and ethnicity and for English learners, students with disabilities and students from economically disadvantaged families are truly troubling,” said State Superintendent Carolyn Stanford Taylor.

“We must persist in our work with schools and communities to close gaps,” she said.

The biggest gap closing the past five years was for Pacific Islander students, going from an 88.6 percent graduation rate in 2013-14 to 94.0 percent in 2017-18.

The biggest gap remaining was for students with disabilities. In the 2017-18 school year, 68.5 percent of students with disabilities graduated, down a half-percent from 2013-14, and almost 25 points below the 92.3 percent graduation rate for students without disabilities.

English learners improved graduation rates to 70.1 percent from 64 percent five years ago, compared to a 90.2 percent graduation rate for English-proficient students.

More females (91.6 percent) than males (87.8 percent) graduated in 2017-18.

Economically disadvantaged students graduated at a 80.2 percent clip, compared to 94.5 percent of the not economically disadvantaged subgroup.

Groups by ethnicity showed 69.3 percent of black or African American, 77.8 percent of American Indian, 82.3 percent of Hispanic/Latino, 85.0 percent of two or more races, 91.0 percent Asian, 93.5 percent white (not Hispanic) and 94.0 percent Pacific Islander students graduating.

The graduation rates are for four years of school or less, which is the standard for federal graduation rate reporting.

Wisconsin guarantees the right to a public education for kids ages 4 to 20, and federal law requires educational services for students with disabilities, if needed, until 21.

The DPI also calculates five-, six- and seven-year graduation rates for those needing longer to complete their high school education.

For the 2017-18 data reporting year, the five-year rate for the class of 2017 was 91.5 percent, the six-year rate for the class of 2016 was 90.6 percent, and the seven-year rate for the class of 2015 was 92.5 percent.

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