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New Data on High School Graduation Rates: Students in Regional Magnets Outperforming Most Suburban Districts

Thursday March 1, 2012

In 2010, we compared graduation rates in Hartford’s magnet high schools with high school graduation rates for all districts in the Hartford region–and found that the regional magnets were outperforming most of the suburban towns in our region! After that, under direction from the U.S. Department of Education, Connecticut developed new data on graduation rates that more accurately reflects the actual rate of graduation than prior analyses. Connecticut released its new dataset in 2011, adhering to the new guidelines from the U.S. Department of Education. We have re-analyzed graduation rates using this new data and found that the regional magnets continue to outperform most of the school districts in the region, especially for lower income children (those who receive “free and reduced price lunch”).


This data is consistent with national research in the fields of economics and public policy that has demonstrated important relationships between high school graduation rates and school diversity. For instance, recent evidence suggests that court-ordered desegregation improved black students’ high school graduation rates (Guryan, 2004), while post-desegregation racial “resegregation” increased black dropout rates in the north (Lutz, 2011). Additionally, a study of 30 years of data from Cleveland, OH before, during, and after desegregation concludes that desegregation had a positive effect on the dropout rate while resegregation had a negative effect on it (Saaacioglu, 2010).

There is also a wealth of research showing that desegregation improves achievement outcomes, and that students with better academic achievement are less likely to drop out (not surprising!). Rucker C. Johnson, a professor of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, used four decades of data from the Panel Study of Income Dynamics to study the economic and educational trajectories of children born between 1950 and 1975 and followed them through 2007. He found that greater educational attainment (as measured by, for example, drop-out rates) is associated with school integration programs (Johnson, 2011). And earlier this year, Professor David Kirp of UC-Berkeley wrote an important essay on desegregation that puts the relationship between school segregation and high school graduation in a broader context.