Across U.S., graduation rates are rising, with little connection to test scores

By Matt Barnum ~ Chalkbeat ~

Alabama’s high school graduation rate was one of the lowest in the country in 2011. Today, it’s one of the highest.

Over that same period, though, Alabama students have continued to perform among the worst in the nation on federal math and reading tests.

That leaves the state with a jarring disconnect between its students’ academic skills and the share of diplomas it hands out. And while Alabama’s numbers are outliers, that disconnect exists in many other states.

States with low test scores don’t necessarily have low graduation rates, and vice versa, data released last week for the class of 2017 shows. And state test scores are less pegged to graduation rates than they were several years ago, according to a Chalkbeat analysis.

It’s the latest indication that the nation’s graduation rate gains may have more to do with changes in graduation standards than with how much students are learning. The U.S. graduation rate rose from 79 percent to 84.6 percent from 2011 to 2017, even as test scores stayed largely flat.

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