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Arizona High School Graduation Rates Remain Stagnant

Author: Michelle Boehm, Research & Evaluation Analyst

October 25, 2016

According to a report released by the U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, the national high school graduation rate reached a record high of 83 percent in the 2014-2015 school year. At the same time, a look at Arizona’s high school graduation rate reveals a state average six points lower at 77 percent—ranking 44th in the nation.

Arizona’s Native American students experienced the largest gain in high school graduation over a five-year period from 62 percent to 66 percent. Yet, it is sobering that one of every three Native Americans in the state did not complete high school last year. Furthermore, graduation rates of Arizona Hispanic and Black students remained stagnant across this timeframe at 72 and 74 percent, respectively. 

Arizona students from low-income backgrounds also experienced lower, stagnant high school graduation rates. The percentage of economically disadvantaged students graduating high school has remained relatively unchanged from 2011 to 2015 at 73 percent. This contrasts with a six-point increase among low-income students from 2011 (70%) to 2015 (76%) nationally.

Arizona is one of five states in the nation that has not shown an improvement in high school graduation rates since 2011. While it is encouraging that the state’s graduation rate has shown a slight uptick since dropping from its height of 78 percent in 2011, these data indicate there is significant work to be done.

Helios Education Foundation believes that increasing Arizona’s high school graduation rate, particularly for low-income and minority students, is critical in ensuring a prosperous economy and a bright future for all individuals. The Foundation utilizes data such as high school graduation rates to inform its investments across the education continuum in advancing student academic preparedness.  To bolster college and career readiness, the Foundation invests in initiatives that improve and advance academic rigor and relevance in the classroom, create and sustain highly skilled teachers and effective school leaders and that embed a college-going and completing culture in communities supported by actively engaged families. 

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