U.S. schools are reporting impressive growth in graduation rates. According to a U.S. Department of Education report, the 2010-11 school year resulted in a record number of students receiving their diplomas (the highest in the history of the department’s records at the time). Since then, national high school graduation rates increased even more, to 84% between 2015 and 2016. In the 2016-17 school year, roughly 82.3% of Florida students graduated high school, meaning that individual states are reporting immense growth, too. But do those numbers tell the full story?

During the Obama Administration years, educational facilities received support in order to keep at-risk students in the classroom. Alternative high school options, which have been around since the 1970s, were once again highlighted as a way to make it possible for students to receive a diploma. As one of the alternative high school options available to students across the nation, public charter schools have often served as a viable option for students who were more vulnerable to dropping out. High school alternatives like these can be an excellent choice for students who struggle with academics, those who work in less traditional environments, those who have been frequently absent, and others who need a bit of extra encouragement and guidance to achieve their goals. By enrolling in these types of facilities, rather than struggling in their public high school, at-risk students can receive the attention they deserve and the motivation they need to obtain their diplomas.

But while having more alternative high school options can be of great benefit to these students, an increased number of facilities like these can actually skew the graduation rate numbers reported by public schools. In 13 different states, more than half of students who fail to graduate within four years’ time are then enrolled in other schools with high graduation rates. Many of the public schools that look like they’re performing extremely well on paper have a high number of students who do not earn their diplomas within four years. In short, there are numerous public schools who are essentially mislabeling students who earn their diplomas over a longer time period (and eventually through an alternative school) or are finding different ways to not “count” these students in their numbers. This can wrongfully inflate graduation rates for public schools within several states, despite the fact that the number of alternative schools is actually on the rise to accommodate the students who need extra time and attention to avoid dropping out or to receive a diploma after doing so.

That said, there are some public school districts that are allocating resources in order to provide support to the students who need it most (and thereby raise graduation rates authentically). But by and large, the growth of alternative high school options has actually allowed public schools to wrongfully inflate their graduation rates. That’s important for parents and students to note; just because it seems like the vast majority of students within your state are able to achieve their diploma in a conventional environment and on a traditional timeline, that isn’t necessarily true. And even if the numbers don’t reflect it, public school alternatives can make obtaining a diploma a more viable option for countless students. While the quality of high school alternatives will vary quite a bit depending on the state and the facility itself, these options provide a vital lifeline for at-risk students. Whether you were initially on track to graduate or you’ve been struggling in public school for years, these educational centers can provide you with the knowledge, skills, and confidence you need to graduate.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether it takes you four years or six years to receive your diploma. What matters is that you’re pursuing it and that you have the resources to achieve your goals. If you or your child experiences hardships connected to public school, we’re here to help. For more information, please contact us today.


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