Arizona's Challenged Graduation Rates

Author: Helios Education Foundation

March 27, 2015

“If you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”  ~ Derek Bok

While high school graduation rates for the United States have increased annually since academic year 2010-11, the state of Arizona has moved move in the opposite direction. The graduation rate for Arizona students has dropped from 78 percent[i] in academic year 2010-11 to 75%[ii] of students achieving that milestone in academic year 2012-2013.

Even more disturbing is the trend noted among Arizona’s Latino students.

Latino students represent the largest proportion of K-12 students, yet Latino graduation rates lag significantly behind those of White students. Not only do Latino students fall behind in comparison to peer groups, a disturbing three-year trend highlights an alarming decline in year-over-year Latino graduation. In academic year 2010-11, 72%[iii] of Latino students graduated with a high school diploma while in academic year 2011-2012, that figure declined to only 70%[iv].

Alarmingly, in academic year 2012-13 only 69% of Latino students completed high school. With more than 60% of the jobs of the future requiring some form of postsecondary education these students will not be prepared for future job opportunities, leaving our state at an economic disadvantage. The lack of Latino achievement is more than a minority issue; it is an issue of economic prosperity and workforce development for our state.

Arizona has the fourth largest concentration of Latinos behind New Mexico, California and Texas[v]. Between 2001-2010, Arizona’s Latino population grew by 46 percent while the non-Latino population grew by 17 percent.[vi] At 44 percent, Latinos already make up the largest proportion of the state’s population of children and there are more Latino children than White children in the state’s public schools[vii].

The sheer number of Latino students in our state’s K-12 and postsecondary education systems today is a sign of things to come. Latinos will make up the majority of Arizona’s workforce pipeline tomorrow and far into the future. Improving Latino education achievement is foundational to Arizona’s ability to attract, retain and expand vital growth industries, and ultimately, transform Arizona from a low-skill, service economy to a high-skill, knowledge-based economy. The seismic shift in Arizona’s population requires that we consider how we are preparing students to lead our state successfully into the future.

If we do not invest in education, we will agonize from the pain of ignorance.


[i] United States Department of Education, 2012

[ii] United States Department of Education, 2013

[iii] United States Department of Education, 2012

[iv] United States Department of Education, 2013

[v]Pew Hispanic Center

Iv Morrison Institute for Public Policy, Dropped? Latino Education and Arizona’s Economic Future (2012), page 24;

v Annie E. Casey Foundation

Category: College and Career Readiness

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