State graduation rates continue to rise, yet many students graduate from high school academically unprepared to succeed in the next phase of their lives – whether that means college, career training, or the military. Explore why high school expectations matter.

Read More

Why do high school expectations matter?

A student graduates from high school hoping to begin a well-paying job repairing medical equipment but needs to take and pay for community college courses to gain high school-level math skills required.

Another student gets good grades and graduates from high school, and aspires to earn a Bachelor’s degree. But, the student realizes too late that college admissions requirements at large, public institutions exceed the high school courses required to earn a diploma.

Students at one high school in a rural area graduate taking their state’s required math classes that barely cover all of the state’s Algebra I standards, while their peers just miles apart at another school in the same state are expected to take at least Algebra II to graduate. Why do some pathways open doors while others leave the door closed?

All students deserve the opportunity to take courses that prepare them to enter the workforce, the military, or postsecondary education. As states continue to provide more graduation options or change existing requirements, the landscape is becoming more complicated within and across states.
  • The level of rigor and expectations are not the same across schools and districts within states.
  • A significant portion of students do not complete or have access to courses that prepare them for their next steps.
  • Too many students earn a high school diploma without having taken and passed the courses needed for admission into either the more selective or broader-access colleges and universities in their states.
  • Students and their families need information about their graduation options and about where those options lead upon graduation.

Typically, states set graduation requirements for students through units or courses. As more and more states explore new and innovative ways to award diplomas and assess learning to better meet students’ needs, now is the time to talk about how states structure high school graduation expectations and policies to ensure that graduation requirements and course pathways equip all students for success. 

Data Explorer

Achieve is committed to helping state policymakers, educators, and families understand the expectations for students to graduate from high school and how these policies impact student success.

Reach out to learn more about our work on graduation options.

Contact Us