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U.S. High School Graduation Rate Hits All-Time High

Never before have so many students graduated from U.S. high schools.

The national high school graduation rate spiked from 79 percent in the 2010-2011 school year to 83.2 percent in the 2014-2015 school year, according to the U.S. Department of Education.

That's the highest percentage of graduates ever, President Barack Obama said on Oct. 17, when he addressed an audience at Benjamin Banneker Academic School in Washington, D.C.

"When we understand that no matter what you look like, where you come from, what faith you are, whether you're a boy or a girl, that you should have great opportunities to succeed and that requires you to put effort into it," Obama said, per CNN.

While disparities remain across racial and ethnic groups, students across all categories are graduating at higher rates than they were five years ago, the government's statistics show. Black students graduated at a rate of only 67 percent in 2010-2011, but by 2014-2015 it was up to 74.6 percent.

English learners -- kids who aren't native speakers and are learning the language as part of their education -- also graduated at much higher rates, from 57 percent to 65.1 percent over the same five-year period.

"It represents real students in real cities, towns and rural communities who are better prepared for success in college and careers," Education Secretary John B. King Jr. said, according to McClatchy.

While it was welcome news that more American students are graduating, an Associated Press report pointed out that test scores are declining nationally.

Average scores on SAT and ACT college entrance exams are down, the AP report said, and math scores for fourth and eighth graders were down for the first time in 25 years in 2015. Reading scores were flat for fourth-graders compared with previous years, and lower for eighth graders.

"A higher graduation rate is meaningful progress, but certainly we share the concern that we have more work to do to make sure every student graduates ready for what's next," King said.

While the best-ever graduation rates are a milestone, several non-profits are pushing for a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020, and they say more must be done for homeless students and students living in poverty, among others.

"Too many young people are still being left behind," the GradNation campaign said in a statement, noting that nearly 700,000 teenagers are not in school and do not have a high school diploma."

Sources: Time, CNN, Associated Press via McClatchy / Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

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