Graduation rates rising in Kansas and the Nation

Graduation rates rising in Kansas and the Nation

Kansas and the United States as a whole sharply increased four-year high school graduation rates between 2005 and 2010, according to two recently released national reports. Kansas students graduate at higher rates than the national average and most other states in the region.

The National Center for Education Statistics (U.S. Department of Education) has released selected data tables from the  2012 Digest of Education Statistics.  Also, Education Week and the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center released the annual  Diplomas Count report.  Both contain information on the graduating class of 2010, and both report the percentage of students graduating high school within four years has increased significantly over the past decade.  However, the two studies come up with somewhat different results, with the Digest usually several percentage points higher.

According the Digest, the Kansas four-year graduation rate rose from 77.1% in 2000, when Kansas ranked 17th in the nation, to 83.0% in 2010, ranking 8th. Diplomas Count shows the Kansas graduation rate rising from 73.5% in 2000 to 80% in 2010, and the state ranking increasing from 17th to 12th.

The national graduation rate increased by about the same percentage as Kansas since 2000, but Kansas started at a higher level.  In 2010, the U.S. average had reached about the level Kansas was at ten years earlier in both reports.

Although these new reports do not go past 2010, a study by the U.S. Department of Education last fall put the Kansas graduation rate at 83.0% in 2011.  That report used a new, uniform methodology for all states, but does not provide comparable data for previous years.

The Digest also reports the percentage of population aged 18-24 with a high school diploma, based on a three year average.  For 2008-10, this report shows Kansas with an 85.1% completion rate, up from 78.3% in 2000.  However, Kansas’ ranking in this area dropped slightly, from 17th to 19th.  The national average increased from 74.7% to 83.1%.

KASB uses these indicators to calculate the state high school completion rate in order to rank education performance.  In 2000, Kansas ranked 18th when averaging the Diplomas Count and Digest four-year graduation rates and the Digest percent of young adults completing high school.  Averaging the most recent reports for 2010 with the 2011 U.S. Department of Education rate places Kansas 11th in the nation, an increase of seven positions in 10 years.

High school completion is one of four areas KASB tracks for state student performance, along with National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) reading and math tests, preparation for college based on ACT and SAT tests, and adult (over 25 years) education attainment.  Last year, based on all four of these areas, Kansas ranked 7th in the nation.  KASB’s goal is for Kansas to improve to first in the nation in education outcomes.

Graduation rates in Kansas began spiking upward after the Legislature approved significant funding increases following the Montoy school finance decision in 2005, which specifically directed more money to “at risk” students less likely to graduate.  The national graduation rate increased at about the same rate, but so did education funding in other states.  In fact, between 2000 and 2011, national spending per pupil was not only higher than Kansas, but increased slightly more.  Kansas per pupil spending increased 50.9%, from $6,294 to $9,498.  The U.S. average increased 52.8%, from $6,911 to $10,560.

Each of the ten states with a higher average of the four high school completion rates listed above spent more than Kansas in 2011.  The ten states have an average completion rate of 84.4%, 1.2% higher than Kansas, but spent an average of $12,779, or 35% more than Kansas.

Highest Graduation Rates
Average Graduation Rate, 2010-11
Current Spending Per Pupil, 2011
Students Eligible for Free/Reduced
Price Meals
North Dakota
New Jersey
New Hampshire
Top 10 Average
U.S. Average

Finally, Kansas has more low income, at-risk students than any of the top ten states in high school graduation.  On average, the top ten states have 36.4% of students eligible for free or reduced meals, 31% less than Kansas.  Put another way, Kansas is less than one percent below the national average for low income students, but is nearly 5 percent above the national average for graduation – and spent 10 percent less than the national average per pupil.