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Alarming Gap in Access, Attainment Rates Exists Between Students from High- and Low-Poverty Schools

Alarming Gap in Access, Attainment Rates Exists Between Students from High- and Low-Poverty Schools

by NSC Blog | Nov 12, 2015 | High School Benchmarking, K-12, Research Services |

The National Student Clearinghouse® Research Center™ recently released the third annual High School Benchmarks Report for high schools to compare their graduates’ college transition rates nationwide, including those serving low income and minority students. This year’s report included a supplemental feature that presents postsecondary outcomes for graduates of high-poverty schools. These are schools where at least 75 percent of the student population are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. Higher income schools are defined as low-poverty if less than 25 percent of the student population are eligible for free or reduced price lunch. The supplemental data demonstrates a more alarming gap in access and attainment rates between students from high- and low-poverty schools.

Only 18 to 29 percent of graduates from high-poverty high schools graduated college within six years of finishing high school, compared to 28 to 53 percent of low poverty school graduates.

Figure 1 shows the gaps in the immediate college enrollment rate between high- and low-poverty schools within each minority level and geographic category. These gaps range from 11 to 30 percentage points. The poverty-level gap is largest among graduates from low minority, suburban schools (a 30 percentage point difference). The gap is narrowest among graduates of high minority, urban schools (an 11 percentage point difference).

Figure 1: College Enrollment Rates in the First Fall after High School Graduation, Class of 2014, Public Non-Charter Schools by Poverty Level

High School Benchmarks Figure 1* Value not shown due to low coverage.

The six-year completion rates demonstrate that the achievement gap between graduates of high- and low-poverty schools continues after college entry, as graduates from high-poverty schools completed degrees at much lower rates than those from low-poverty schools. Only 18 to 29 percent of graduates from high-poverty high schools graduated college within six years of finishing high school, compared to 28 to 53 percent of low poverty school graduates (Figure 2).

Figure 2. College Completion Rates Six Years after High School Graduation, Class of 2008, Public Non-Charter Schools by Poverty Level

High School Benchmarks 2015 Figure 2
* Value not shown due to low coverage.

In addition, the minority category appears to be a strong contributing factor to the achievement gap for students from low poverty, urban schools: students from low minority schools had a completion rate 22 percentage points higher than those from high minority schools (51 percent and 29 percent, respectively). Most of this variance in the completion rate comes from the difference in completion rates from four-year institutions (43 and 23 percent, respectively) (Figure 3).

Figure 3. College Completion Rates Six Years after High School Graduation, Class of 2008, Public Non-Charter Schools by Minority Level

High School Benchmarks 2015 Figure 3
* Value not shown due to low coverage.

The High School Benchmarks Report covers public and private high schools from all 50 states and from the majority of the 100 largest districts in the U.S., with nearly 4 million high school graduates or 24 to 30 percent of all public high school graduates for each year included in the report.

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