WASHINGTON - Graduation rates for Rhode Island high schoolers dropped from 75.7 percent in 2002 to 75.3 percent in 2009, falling below the national average, according to a report by Johns Hopkins University’s Everyone Graduates Center, Civic Enterprises and America’s Promise Alliance – a nonprofit group headed by former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell.
Rhode Island was one of only 10 states that saw declines in its “on-time” averaged freshman graduation rate during this period. On-time graduation is defined as a student completing high school with the same class that he entered with.
Nevada on-time rates dropped 15.6 percentage points, Connecticut dropped 4.3 points, New Mexico - 2.6 points, Arizona – 2.2 points, California – 1.6 points, Utah – 1.1 points, Nebraska – 1.0 points, Arkansas – 0.8 points and New Jersey 0.5 points.
The national graduation rate increased 3.5 percentage points between 2001 and 2009 from 72 percent to 75.5 percent in 2009.
New York and Tennessee saw the biggest improvements in state graduation rates with 13 and 17.8 percentage points, respectively. Other significant gains were made by Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, Wisconsin, Kentucky and Massachusetts.
The Bay State ended 2009 with an 83.3 percent average freshman graduation rate, compared with 77.6 percent in 2002.
The report – titled “Building a Grad Nation: Progress and challenge in ending the high school dropout epidemic” – found that graduation rates vary extensively by race. Nationally, 91.8 percent of Asian students graduated on time, as did 82 percent of whites. However, 65.9 percent of Hispanics and 63.5 percent of blacks graduated high school on schedule.
The organizations are rallying for 90 percent high school students to graduate on time by 2020. Currently, only one state – Wisconsin – has achieved the goal, though Vermont is close behind with an 89.6 percent graduation rate.
The aimed 90 percent rate could mean money for the Ocean State. Graduates, who make roughly $130,000 more during their lifetimes than non-graduates, could deliver an estimated $17 million in increased annual earnings, $5.6 million in increased annual state tax revenue, and an increase in the gross state product of $20 million, according to the report.