Graduating from high school is important. It’s the stepping stone to a successful career and future. Unfortunately, not all states have an equal chance of graduating from high school, with some having significantly lower graduation rates than others.
The US Census Bureau’s American Communities Survey provides us with the highest level of education for those aged 25 and above. According to nationwide data, 10.7% of Americans have not earned a high school diploma or GED; yet this figure may differ from state to state.
Below we uncover the states with the lowest graduation rates for those aged 25 and older and how the data compares to the most recent graduation rates.
10. Oklahoma (11.3%)
In Oklahoma, 11.3% of people aged 25 and older have never earned their high school diploma or equivalent qualification.
In Oklahoma, public schools have a graduation rate of 80% in 2023, according to this source. The most impressive accomplishment is found at Booker T. Washington High School – boasting a 98% student graduation rate! Clearly, this school has surpassed the state average and excels in educational excellence.
9. New York (12%)
In New York, 12% of people aged 25 and older have never earned their high school diploma or equivalent qualification.
Last school year, the graduation rate in New York City soared to 83.7%, 2.5 points higher than the prior year, according to an announcement from State Education Department. On a statewide level, 87% of students graduated within four years, which is about one point more than before!
8. Kentucky’s (12.1%)
In Kentucky, 12.1% of people aged 25 and older have never earned their high school diploma or equivalent qualification.
According to recent data, the graduation rate was 91.1%, a positive turn. Kentucky graduates high schoolers at a remarkable rate – fourth in the nation for students who finish their education within four years and eighth when it comes to bridging the gap between white graduation rates and those of other racial/ethnic groups. So congratulations to the state!
7. Alabama (12.1%)
In Alabama, 12.1% of people aged 25 and older have never earned their high school diploma or equivalent qualification.
In 2023, public schools in Alabama achieve a 90% graduation rate, with Florence High School as the top public school in Alabama for student graduation rate at a staggering 98%.
6. New Mexico (12.5%)
In New Mexico, 12.5% of people aged 25 and older have never earned their high school diploma or equivalent qualification.
The New Mexico Public Education Department has reported that the 2021 graduation rate for high school seniors in New Mexico was 76.8%, virtually equal to the previous year’s figure of 76.9%. Additionally, there has been a slight increase from the 2019 graduation rate of 75%.
5. Nevada (12.9%)
In Nevada, 12.9% of people aged 25 and older have never earned their high school diploma or equivalent qualification.
The graduation rate for the Class of 2022 for Nevada was 81.7%. That is up from 81.3% the year before. Four districts have proudly achieved a graduation rate of 90.0 percent or greater in the year 2022: Eureka topped the list with 100%, while Pershing and Lincoln closely followed at 96.7% and 95.5%; Humboldt rounded out this impressive quartet with 94.3%.
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4. Louisiana (13.3%)
In Louisiana, 13.3% of people aged 25 and older have never earned their high school diploma or equivalent qualification.
Louisiana public schools typically graduate 84% of their students; as of 2023, Baton Rouge Magnet High School has achieved an impressive graduation rate of 99%, dwarfing the state’s average.
3. Mississippi (13.6%)
In Mississippi, 13.6% of people aged 25 and older have never earned their high school diploma or equivalent qualification.
However, the 2021-22 school year has seen Mississippi’s graduation rate soar to 88.9%, its highest ever, with the state dropout rate dropping to 9%. This all-time high gives a positive outlook for the future of Mississippi’s education system.
2. Texas (14.6%)
Nationwide, an average of 10.7% of Americans 25 and older did not have a high school diploma or GED. In Texas, however, an alarming 14.6% of people have never earned their high school diploma or equivalent qualification.
However, things are looking up for Texas, as it boasts some of the highest graduation rates in the country in 2022 at 90%.
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1. California (15.5%)
California has the most disheartening statistic of all fifty states, with a staggering 15.5% of its population aged 25 and older failing to acquire their high school diploma or GED.
California’s five-year graduation rate saw a slight uptick from 87% in 2019 to 87.3% in 2021, and of the 429,000 students who graduated, around half achieved their A-G requirements in both years, according to EdSource.
Sacramento had one of the largest percentage point decreases in graduation rates, dropping 7.6 percentage points – from 92.9% in 2019-20 to 85.3% in 2021.
The overall decrease in the school district’s graduation rate is attributed to a combination of factors, including students who have moved away and those with moderate-to-severe disabilities receiving Certificates of Completion instead of diplomas.
The data presented above shows that graduation rates across the United States vary widely. However, impressive strides are being made in all 50 states to improve graduation rates and provide more students with a high school diploma or equivalent qualification.
It is encouraging to see individual schools within states reaching higher-than-average graduation rate numbers. Schools such as Florence High School in Alabama, Eureka High School in Nevada, and Booker T. Washington High School in Oklahoma are prime examples of how high schools can excel with strong leadership and dedicated teachers.
We hope that the trend of improving graduation rates will continue so that all students can pursue their future goals.
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