The news about national graduation rates is good – in total, the national rate for 2015 was 83.2 percent. Yet students from low-income households and minority backgrounds continue to lag behind, at  77.8 percent for Hispanic students and 74.6 for black students, according to a report by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University.

Soft SkillsHowever, the good news is that those students are improving faster than their peers. According to Jennifer DePaoli, a researcher with Civic Enterprises and the lead author of the report, since 2011. graduation rates have increased 7.6 percentage points for black students and 6.8 percentage points for Latino students in comparison with  3 percent to 4 percent for white students.

When we look at the big picture, this is good news. We have the highest graduation rates that this country has ever seen,” said DePaoli. But for low-income and minority students and students with disabilities, more help is needed. States “are getting stuck with getting certain students across the finish line,” DePaoli said.

Access to early childhood education increases academic outcomes, including graduation rates. “States need to focus heavily on equity,” DePaoli said. “So many states have focused on increasing their graduation rates, now is the hard part.”

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