The State of American High School Graduates: What States Know (and Don’t) About Student Performance

Tuesday, February 14, 2017Printer-friendly version


States cannot make good policy and practice decisions—and ultimately cannot improve student performance—if they do not have basic information about how students are performing along the way. As such, Achieve focused on states’ publicly reported student performance against college- and career-ready (CCR) indicators in all 50 states and the District of Columbia to inform this year’s report on The State of American High School Graduates: What States Know (and Don’t) About Student Performance. The goal of this work is to focus on results within each state so that state leaders can determine the extent to which their K–12 system is producing CCR graduates, whether they are satisfied with the results, and if not, what they can do to improve the readiness of all students.  

What did this year’s analysis find? Even when states report data, comparing student outcomes across states is difficult, if not impossible, as states take such different approaches to how they define their indicators. In reviewing states’ reporting of a variety of academic indicators, Achieve found disparities across states that are applicable to nearly all CCR indicators:  

  • Denominators used to calculate student outcomes: States’ denominators are often inconsistent across indicators within the states and also across states. Denominators used include: graduates, completers, 9–12th graders, juniors and seniors, tests taken, and combinations of test takers throughout high school (grades 9–12, 11–12, or 12). ·
  • Disaggregation of student outcomes data: States’ reporting of data disaggregated by students’ race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English language proficiency, and disability status to identify and close performance gaps among student groups can be inconsistent across indicators within a state. Without subgroup reporting, it becomes difficult to understand how all students are performing; too often reporting “all students” results only masks variation in reporting group performance.
  • Timeliness of student outcomes data: For some states, reporting indicators of student performance has become routinized and data are released in a timely and predictable manner. But in some states, student outcome reporting remains chaotic, unpredictable, and irregular. Some states haven’t released timely student outcome data for several years.
  • Ease of finding student outcomes data: In some states, student outcome results are organized in a logical, centralized location. But in far too many states, student outcomes data are scattered across one or more websites and are difficult to locate and make sense of. In some states, data are housed in legislative reports and data warehouses that can be challenging to locate.  

This year’s report shows that some states have made progress in their public reporting of a number of CCR indicators. It is also encouraging that the vast majority of states that reported data last year released updated data over the past year. This suggests that collecting and reporting student performance data is becoming a routinized part of states’ monitoring.  

State leaders, partners, advocates, and the public should continue to push for more transparency and better reporting of the information they need to understand how their students are doing—and to use that data to examine trends and whether policy and practice decisions are producing the kinds of student results desired.  

Download the K–12 and postsecondary cross-state report in PDF format here. The methodology is posted here. Individual state profiles are linked below, along with a brief video explanation of the indicators in the reports.

State Profiles

Alabama Hawaii Michigan North Carolina Utah
Alaska Idaho Minnesota North Dakota Vermont
Arizona Illinois Mississippi Ohio Virginia
Arkansas Indiana Missouri Oklahoma Washington
California Iowa Montana Oregon West Virginia
Colorado Kansas Nebraska Pennsylvania Wisconsin
Connecticut Kentucky Nevada Rhode Island Wyoming
Delaware Louisiana New Hampshire South Carolina  
District of Columbia Maine New Jersey South Dakota  
Florida Maryland New Mexico Tennessee  
Georgia Massachusetts New York Texas  


Understanding the Reports