Blacks and Latinos More Than Half of Nation’s Nongraduates

While there is a national concern about students dropping out, there is less concern about the graduation gap among various minority groups.

The Education Week Research Center calculated the number of graduates and nongraduates for the class of 2012 by multiplying the 2011-12 graduation rate by the estimated size of the entering freshman class four years earlier. Nationally, about 760,000 of the 3.8 million students who started high school in 2008 failed to earn diplomas.

Members of historically disadvantaged minority groups make up a disproportionate share of dropouts. Black and Latino students, for example, together account for 54 percent of non-graduates, but only 38 percent of the high school population. 42 percent of whites fail to graduate but 29 percent of Blacks and 25 percent of Hispanics fail to graduate.

For the high school class of 2012, 72 percent of economically disadvantaged students graduated with a diploma, compared with 86 percent of their more affluent peers—a gap of 14 percentage points. Even larger disparities are found for students with disabilities (22 points) and those with limited English proficiency (22 points).

The size of these divides also varies dramatically across states. For example, the largest socioeconomic gap in graduation is found in Minnesota, where disadvantaged students lag 28 percentage points behind their classmates. By contrast, gaps of less than 10 points are found in six states.