Idaho climbs in national graduation rankings

The Gem State is no longer ranked in the bottom 10 for high school graduation rates.

Idaho’s pandemic graduation rate of 82.1% in 2020 vaulted the state to 41st in a ranking of all 50 states and Washington D.C. according to an EdNews analysis of each state’s graduation rates. That’s an improvement from 2019, when Idaho ranked 45th.

The 2020 year was a strange one for high school seniors who were sent home from school during the onset of a global pandemic. In many districts seniors were not required to complete their final assignments, and certain graduation requirements, including a senior project.

State superintendent Sherri Ybarra lauded Idaho’s improvement of 1.4 percentage points as the biggest year-to-year increase since Idaho changed the way it calculates grad rates in 2014. The five-year graduation rate, including 2019  graduates who needed extra time to complete high school, is closer to 83.3% she said in an email.

“My focus has been on improving Idaho’s graduation rate rather than calculating national rankings,” Ybarra said in an email to EdNews. “I’m confident our graduation rates will continue to improve, thanks to the efforts of Idaho students and teachers.”

The national graduation rate also climbed slightly from 85.8% in 2019 to 86.0% in 2020. But national media outlets, including the Wall Street Journal, predict that the 2021 national graduation rate could drop for the first time in 10 years due to the pandemic, and the challenge of online and hybrid learning models.

Still, Idaho’s gains were not universal. English Language Learners dropped 9.8 percentage points to 64.6 percent. Black/African American students dropped 4.8 percentage points to 68.8 percent and students from military families dropped 4.3 percentage points to 80 percent.

The increase also fell well short of Idaho’s goal in its Consolidated Plan, a blueprint to comply with the Every Student Succeeds Act, the federal education law passed in 2015. State education leaders were hoping for a graduation rate of 89.9 percent in 2020 when that plan was approved.

EdNews data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report. He developed the rankings by collecting grad rates from each state. 

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