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Indiana high school graduation rates, disparities about same as pre-pandemic

The Indiana 2021 graduation rate is 86.69 percent overall, and 78.78 percent for students who did not receive a waiver from the Graduation Qualifying Exam requirement.
The Indiana 2021 graduation rate is 86.69 percent overall, and 78.78 percent for students who did not receive a waiver from the Graduation Qualifying Exam requirement.

The number of students who earned adiploma in 2021 is consistent to the past few years, according to data the Indiana Department of Education released Wednesday. But some Hoosiers, such as students who are Black, on free and reduced lunch or receiving special education services, still lag behind their peers.

According to the IDOE, 86.6 percent of students graduated in 2021. The state’s graduation rate has hovered around 87 percent since 2016. This is above Indiana’s federal graduation rate of 85.7 percent.

This is the first time in two years that the state has provided graduation rates that also reflect student’s requirement to pass the 10th grade standardized exam to qualify for graduation without a waiver. State and federal testing requirements were waived in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which forced many students and educators across the country to abruptly switch to online learning. IDOE advises people to be “cautious” when comparing current and past rates to the 2020 graduating class.

Roughly 40 percent of students graduated with a Core 40 honors diploma or an International Baccalaureate diploma.

The number of students graduating with waiver diplomas for students who did not pass the 10th grade qualifying exam, also dipped by nearly two percentage points. Education advocates are concernedwaiver diplomas impact a student’s post-high school success by leaving graduates ill-prepared to pursue higher education or careers.

"Across our state, our educators, families and community leaders are working to be difference-makers in our students' lives, preparing them not only for graduation but for the rapidly-changing world that awaits,” Katie Jenner, Indiana Secretary of Education, said in a press release.

Although there was an uptick in the number of overall graduates, economic and racial disparities still persist between student groups:

  • Seventy-seven percent of Black students, 82.6 percent of Hispanic students and 86.3 percent of Pacific Islander students graduated. This is compared to nearly 94 percent of Asian students and 89 percent of White students.
  • The graduation rate for those who receive free and reduced lunch – the national metric for calculating student poverty – was roughly 11 percentage points lower than their peers. Students receiving special education services had the lowest graduation rate of student groups at 74.5 percent.
  • Only 48 percent of charter school students graduated compared to 89 percent of traditional Indiana public schools. This is still a boost for charter schools, which only graduated 40.2 percent of the 2019 graduating class.

“Looking ahead into 2022 and beyond, we must continue to work together to ensure our students earn their high school diploma and have access to intentional post-secondary credentials in high school,” Jenner said. “This mission takes all of us as we strive to make an impact on our students' lives, now and well into the future."

Overall, more than 67,500 students graduated last year.

Contact WFYI education reporter Elizabeth Gabriel at egabriel@wfyi.org. Follow on Twitter: @_elizabethgabs.

Copyright 2021 WFYI Public Radio. To see more, visit WFYI Public Radio.