Last updated: February 20. 2013 3:14AM - 213 Views

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A new national report shows graduation rates have nudged up slowly to their highest level in nearly four decades. While there are caveats in comparing the data, Luzerne County schools generally have been outpacing national and state success.

The study by the National Center for Education Statistics estimated that 78.2 percent of students nationwide graduated within four years of entering ninth grade based on 2009-10 data. NCES data typically is at least two years old.

The rate varied from a low of 57.8 percent in Nevada to 91.4 percent in Vermont. The rates were lower for blacks and Hispanics, 66.1 percent and 71.4 percent, respectively.

In Pennsylvania, the overall rate was 84.1 percent. The rate for blacks was 68.3 percent and for Hispanics it was 70.4 percent.

The report doesn't give district-level data. A look at the latest data – 2011-12 – from the state Department of Education, however, suggests Luzerne County districts generally are above the state and national norms.

Be cautious, however, if comparing the state and national data: While national data is derived from reports provided by the states, for years, the federal government calculated graduation rates differently than many states. All 50 states have agreed to start using the federal method this year, and Pennsylvania already has implemented the new system.

That data show a state average of 83 percent overall graduation rate, with a 65 percent rate for both blacks and Hispanics. Only Hazleton Area falls below the overall mark at 81 percent, and it exceeds the state Hispanic average with a 71 percent rate. The district is below the state average with a black graduation rate of 64 percent.

The state does not release minority graduation rates in districts where the number of students in a minority is 10 or fewer. Only two other districts have enrollments meeting that benchmark: Wilkes-Barre Area and Wyoming Valley West, and both have graduation rates above 80 percent for blacks and Hispanics.

Other findings in the national report:

• Asian/Pacific Islander students had the highest graduation rate at 93.5 percent.

• Graduation rates increased for 38 states from 2008-09 to 2009-10.

• The national dropout rate increases as grade level increases. Ninth grade had the lowest rate at 2.6 percent while grade 12 had a rate of 5.1 percent.

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