Data show Illinois 20th in high school graduation rates - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Data show Illinois 20th in high school graduation rates

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (KFVS/AP) - New data from the U.S. Department of Education show that 86 percent of Illinois students graduate from high school. That's the 20th-highest graduation rate in the country.

The department said on Tuesday that the 82.3 percent national graduation rate for the 2013-14 school year was the highest recorded since it started using a new, uniform measure in 2010.

According to Illinois Report Card, Meridian High School graduates 88 percent of its students.

Its something school administrators say is a team effort.

The teachers are very devoted, they push them, director of guidance counseling, Corby Hight said. The guidance office here we spend a lot of time with them and kind of make it a plan with them and what are their interests.

Hight has been the guidance counselor at Meridian High School for the past six years and said one of the biggest factors is working with Shawnee Community College.

They provide help with dual credit, senior day, we take our kids up there. Theyre very involved, he said.

Its an initiative students say helps out a lot.

They help you get enrolled into college into college, high school senior, Alex Fowler said. So youre already taking classes and youre already working on your degree, and youre still in high school, so its up there.

For high school senior Nijabia Thomas, who plans on running her own business one day, she said this and other classes help her see what it may be like after graduation.

It helped me look forward to the future and what I should be prepared for, she said.

Hight said many of the students are motivated internally.

Were in a poverty area, he said. They dont want to stay here, they want to make better choices and do different things. Really our job is kind of easy, we provide them, they roll with it and we stay on them.

They dont get give up on you for real, Fowler said, who plans to be a forensic anthropologist. Mr. Hight, hes always on you with the college applications and the scholarships everyday in the classroom, like everyday and thats really helpful.

That still leaves nearly 1 in 5 students leaving high school without a diploma.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan praised the improvement but said too many students still drop out.

Hight said outside factors could play a major part in why some students may decide to drop out. He said having those weekly talks with students are needed because they may or may not hear them outside of school walls.

Actively meeting with kids, teachers being involved. Its continual reinforcement, he said. You got to stay on them.

And with May just around the corner, Thomas and Fowler say theyll be ready.

Im excited, Im also nervous, Thomas said. But yeah Im very excited.

As soon as I get back from Christmas break, those couple of months are going to go by quick. So Im ready, Fowler said.

In Illinois, 90.1 percent of white students graduate. The numbers are 77.2 percent for black students and 81.3 percent for Hispanic students.

Iowa's 90.5 percent overall graduation rate was the country's highest. The District of Columbia had the lowest, at 61.4 percent.

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Copyright 2015 KFVS. All rights reserved. The Associated Press also contributed to this report.

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