So what can we learn from the federal Department of Education’s publication of the nation’s graduation rates this week? On the new and more rigorous metrics used by the DOE, Connecticut’s overall graduation rate was amongst the top five in the nation. That’s the good news. Here’s the bad news. Although Connecticut did relatively well overall (with an 83% statewide graduation rate), our low-income students ranked in the bottom ten states. Perhaps that’s not surprising, in light of the fact that Connecticut has the largest achievement gap in the nation. But it certainly underscores the need to narrow the gap.
Amongst New England states, Connecticut’s low-income students had the lowest graduation rates. And it just isn’t fair to pretend that these disappointing results are because it’s impossible to teach low-income students, either. Just look at Massachusetts– the only New England state that is demographically comparable to Connecticut. Both states have minority populations of over 30%, and identical percentages of low-income populations. Massachusetts also shows the same graduation rate as Connecticut overall; however, Massachusetts’ low-income students graduate at a higher rate than Connecticut’s. The numbers are giving us a clear message: overcoming socioeconomic diversity is a significant challenge, but not an impossible one! Connecticut has an economic and moral imperative to concentrate on closing its achievement gap. It’s time we start taking this challenge seriously.