Source: NJ Spotlight analysis of NJ Department of Education data.
New Jersey’s high school seniors graduated at the highest rate in recent years, with 90.9 percent of the Class of 2018 graduating in four years.
That is a slight improvement over the Class of 2017, which posted a 90.5 percent rate, according to data posted by the state Department of Education. It is 1.4 percent higher than the 89.67 percent of seniors who graduated in 2015. Last year, 96,955 students graduated from New Jersey public high schools.
The 2018 graduation rate was the highest since New Jersey began using a federally-mandated methodology to calculate graduation rates in 2011. This method compares the number of graduates against the number of freshmen who enrolled four years earlier, as well as students who transferred into and out of a school over the four-year period. The first year the state used the new methodology, its graduation rate was 83 percent.
4-Year graduation rates by school for 2018 and past years.
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Source: NJ Department of Education
The four-year rate for almost every category of graduate also rose from 2017 to 2018. The only exception was for students who are Limited English Proficient; their rate dropped slightly from 76.1 percent graduating in 2017 to 75.82 percent in 2018. Still, a greater proportion of LEP students graduated last year than three years earlier, when 74.03 percent of the Class of 2015 graduated.
Asians students had the highest rate
Asian students graduated at the highest rate — 97.14 percent — followed by non-Hispanic whites, who had a 94.96 percent rate. The rate for Hispanics was 84.79 percent, while 84.22 percent of blacks graduated. Students with disabilities logged the greatest one-year increase, boosting their graduation rate by 1.6 percent to 80.14 percent last year. The graduation rate for economically disadvantaged students was 84.6 percent.
The graduation rates for all categories increased since 2015, and since 2011 when the new method of calculation was instituted.
After several years of not reporting graduation data by gender, the DOE provided that information for the Class of 2018. Girls graduated at a significantly higher rate than boys: 93.28 percent for females, compared with 88.65 percent for males.
For the first time, the DOE released graduation rates for two new groups of students: 395 homeless students graduated, a rate of 72.6 percent, while 149 students in foster care graduated, a rate of 62.6 percent.
“Educators, parents, students, and all stakeholders involved in the education of children should be proud of the improvement we’re seeing in the graduation rate,” said Arcelio Aponte, president of the State Board of Education. “New Jersey has established rigorous academic standards, and our schools are providing a world-class education that helps students meet that challenge.”
Wealthier districts typically have higher rates
Graduation rates vary by school and district and typically are higher in wealthier districts. The selective academies found largely in vocational districts tend to have the highest rates, with 24 schools posting perfect rates. Elizabeth High School was the only traditional high school where all members of the Class of 2018 graduated.
Some of the greatest rate gains have been in more urban, lower-achieving schools. The four-year rate at Penns Grove High School rose from 58 percent in 2017 to 76 percent last year. Asbury Park High School’s rate rose by 17 percentage points over three years, with 83 percent of the Class of 2018 graduating.
New Jersey consistently has one of the highest graduation rates in the nation. In 2017, the most recent year for which national data is available, New Jersey’s rate of 90.5 percent was second only to Iowa’s rate of 91 percent.
The Department also calculates the five-year graduation rate. The 2018 graduation rate for students who graduated within five years was 92.4 percent, an increase from 91.8 percent in the previous year.