State News

Graduation rates, racial achievement gap remain high in Wisconsin

Wisconsin high schools, including Madison East High School, had some of the highest graduation rates in the U.S., according to data released Monday by the U.S. Department of Education.

Image By: Christopher Guess

For the second year in a row, Wisconsin had one of the top high school graduation rates in the country, according to statistics released by the U.S. Department of Education Monday.

But the state also had one of the biggest racial disparities, with black students graduating at a rate of 64.1 percent, compared with 92.9 percent for white students in the 2014-’15 school year.

Wisconsin as a whole had the sixth-highest graduation rate in the country, checking in at 84 percent. Graduation numbers nationwide climbed to a record high of 83 percent, the fourth year in a row that number has increased.

President Barack Obama unveiled the data at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Washington, D.C.

“We have made a lot of progress in terms of making sure that young people across the country get the kind of great education that you’re getting here,” Obama told the students.

But for the second year in a row, Wisconsin’s racial achievement gap was the largest in the country.

When asked about the largest factors contributing to this gap, Madeline Hafner, executive director of the Minority Student Achievement Network at the Wisconsin Center for Education Research, said that it comes down to a multitude of factors, including the allocation of successful teachers.

“Often students of color, who reside in high-poverty areas, are not provided with the best teachers,” Hafner said.

Hafner added that biases have become ingrained in the education system, as “teachers hold biases on what a student can achieve.”

“When students of color come up against a negative stereotype, what is triggered in them is a sense of defeat because they don’t want to fall into that stereotype, but they will because of an unconscious self-fulfilling prophetic response,” Hafner said.

Hafner said she believes some solutions to the gap in graduation rates include having access to better teachers, encouraging rigorous classes for all students, reducing stereotypic threats and not holding preconceptions.

“It’s a multifaceted problem that requires multifaceted approaches,” she said.

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