The number of students graduating after four years of high school, expressed as a percentage of their cohort. A cohort is a class of ninth-graders beginning high school in the same academic year.
High school graduation is the culmination of a successful K-12 education and the gateway to college or employment. Students who do not graduate face the prospect of unemployment or low-paying jobs. There are persistent gaps in academic achievement among students of different races, ethnicities and incomes.
About 87% of the 2016 cohort graduated in Essex County in 2019, slightly lower than the state. This was a 10 percentage-point increase from 2006 for the county and a gain of 8 points for the state. Thirteen districts in the county had graduation rates of 95% or higher and one district reported graduating 99% of students - Georgetown School District.
Students from low-income backgrounds graduated at a somewhat lower rate, 79% in 2019, though that was up significantly from 61% in 2006. While 96% of Asian students and 94% of white students in the 2016 cohort graduated in 2019, rates were somewhat lower among African American and Hispanic students (86% and 76%). These disparities were comparable to rates at the state level among the same groups.
Essex County's rate was a bit lower than Middlesex, MA, which had a rate at 92% in 2019, a 4 percentage-point increase since 2006. No data was immediately available for Lake, IL or Westchester, NY.
Studies point to a variety of factors believed to contribute to disparities in graduation rates and other measures of student achievement. School systems in the United States are highly segregated, and students of color disproportionately attend schools with high proportions of low-income students who may not have benefited from early learning opportunities at the same rate as other students. Schools also have different levels of resources ranging from qualified/experienced teachers to advanced courses to facilities and technology, and schools with large Black and Latino populations often have lower levels. In addition, teachers across all school systems tend to be disproportionately white, and teaching practices and curriculum may not be culturally relevant to students of color.
Students are included in the cohort based on the year they entered Grade 9. Students are transferred in or out of cohorts if they transfer schools. Students who earn a GED or Certificate of Attainment are not counted as graduates. Students are considered economically disadvantaged if their family participates in one or more of the following state-administered programs: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); the Transitional Assistance for Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC); the Department of Children and Families' (DCF) foster care program; or MassHealth (Medicaid).