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For the first time, the U.S. Department of Education has released information on graduation rate by state. This year, states used common measurements, making these comparisons possible. "By using this new measure, states will be more honest in holding schools accountable and ensuring that students succeed," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said in a statement Monday. "Ultimately, this data will help states target support to ensure more students graduate on time, college and career ready." By examining the political environment in which these schools operate, we can draw some conclusions as to what is best for students.
What makes some states a better environment for children to succeed? There is a very strong correlation between states in which children perform well and states which have a robust school choice program. Iowa graduated the highest percentage (88%) of students in the United States, and they offer two forms of school choice. Vermont (which came in second place at 87%), Wisconsin (tied for second), and Indiana (third place at 86%) also provide school options for students. Nearly all of these states provide multiple options for school choice, giving parents a wide variety through which they can exercise their freedom to make decisions regarding what would be best for their children.
The states in which students had the lowest graduation rates had fewer options for school choice. D.C. was at the bottom of the graduation ranking at 59%. Their robust school choice program has created improvement, but this has been a long troubled school district which many obstacles to overcome. The DC Opportunity scholarships were very successful in transitioning children to schools which met their needs, but has been under constant attack from unions and the status quo lobby, limiting expansion of the program.
Next were Nevada (62%) and New Mexico (63%), which both provide very limited options for parents, and none for private education. In Georgia (67%), school choice options are growing and, in Oregon (68%), there are limited options which are only available for public education. In all these poor performing states, parents have very limited options with regards to the education of their children whereas, in the top states, there are several leaders in school choice.
If you needed another argument for school choice, this data is it. Allowing parents to choose the best educational opportunities for their children is a clear path to higher graduation rates. With school choice, everybody wins.
Note: Data was not available for Idaho, Oklahoma, and Kentucky.