High School Graduation Rate Hits Record High

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The U.S. high school graduation rate has reached 81%, the highest graduation rate in history, and seems primed to reach 90% by 2020, according to new federal data.

New data released by the National Center for Education Statistics show that 81% of the class of 2012 graduated on time that year, the highest graduation rate on record. And according to a new report from the education group America’s Promise Alliance and other partners, the U.S. could meet a 90% graduation rate as soon as 202o if the rate of progress continues. That report says much of the graduation success can be attributed to the closing of so-called dropout factories as part of the push for education reform; 648 “dropout factory” high schools were closed between 2001 and 2012, and 1.2 million children who would have gone there were educated at better schools instead.

Nebraska, North Dakota, Vermont and Wisconsin all have graduation rates of at least 90% already, but Washington D.C., Georgia, and Louisiana, and South Carolina were on the low end of the spectrum, with on-time graduation rates in the low 70s. The NCES numbers also point to which states are doing the best job at making sure black, Hispanic and low-income students are graduating on time. Montana had a 91% graduation rate for black students, while North Dakota and Vermont topped 98%. Over 98% of Hispanic students in Maine and over 95% in Vermont graduated on time. The worst states for black and Hispanic graduation rates were Nevada (40% of black students graduated, 50% of Hispanic students,) Wyoming (only 53% of black students graduated,) and Michigan (only 51% of Hispanic students got a degree.)

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Write to Charlotte Alter at charlotte.alter@time.com