Wisconsin is #1 in Graduation Rates…But 2nd Worst In The Nation When It Comes to the Achievement Gap

By Christian D’Andrea
MacIver Institute Education Policy Analyst

Wisconsin once again leads the nation in graduation rates, thanks to 90.7 percent of the state’s high school students earning a diploma in four years.

This marks the second straight year that the state has ranked first, and the third in four years. The state ranked 10th best overall in dropout rate, with 2.3 percent of the overall student body electing to leave high school over this same span.

However, issues with the state’s achievement gap persist. White students were nearly 30 percent more likely to graduate than their black peers; 95 percent of Wisconsin’s Caucasian students earned a diploma in four years, while only 65.3 percent of African-American students did the same. The dropout rate for black students was also over six times higher than it was for white students – eight percent versus 1.3 percent, respectively.

This disparity of 29.7 percentage points was the second largest achievement gap in the country. Only Nebraska was worse, with a difference of 31.3 percent between race/ethnicities in their state.

While the state had the highest graduation rate in America amongst white students, Wisconsin ranked just 28th when it came to graduating black students. However, it is notable that despite the low rank, the state still came in above the national average graduation rate for black students, which was 63.5 percent.

Wisconsin’s Hispanic students also trailed their white counterparts, graduating at 77.3 percent rate. This made the Badger State the sixth best in the country amongst this student group. However, this achievement disparity of 17.7 points gave the state the 18th largest gap between white and Hispanic students. If you exclude states with fewer than 3,000 Hispanic graduates, Wisconsin climbs to eighth in the nation. This group’s dropout rate was also twice as high as the state average (5.2 percent versus 2.3 percent) and four times as high as the average for white students.

These graduation rates as a whole are commendable, but these figures also highlight the problems that face minority students across the state. Wisconsin still has work to do in order to close its achievement gaps and ensure that all students that reach ninth grade, no matter their ethnicity, are ready for a college education four years later.