Education is a key focus in both our country and state. Many studies clearly link educational attainment to economic development. Are we becoming more successful in moving young people through the educational system, particularly in at least finishing high school? N.C. State University economist Mike Walden responds.
“Well … if you look at the U.S. over the last 50 to 75 years, one of the striking statistics is the increase in the high school graduation rate. And fortunately that has continued in recent years. For example, the high school graduation rate right now is around 84 percent. That is to say that kids who enter high school — freshmen — about 84 percent of them will graduate eventually — most of them in four years. Thirty years ago it was 81 percent. So we’ve seen a marginal increase.
“However …, we see big, big differences by particular groups within our society. We’ve seen amazingly large gains in high school graduation rates over the last decades for females, for women. I think that’s primarily because now females know that they can go beyond high school and then go to college, all kinds of occupations today are open to young women that perhaps were not open 30 years ago.
“On the other hand we’ve seen a stagnation — no gains at all — … in high school graduation rates for males. We’ve also seen big gains in high school graduation rates for African-American males and females, as well as for Hispanic males and females, although … the male graduation rates are still much lower than for whites, for Caucasians, whereas the female rates are about the same as for their counterparts, Caucasian rates.
“So I would say overall we are making progress, but we still have work to do in reaching students, particularly from some special backgrounds, in motivating them to get through and finish high school.”