High School Graduation

Desired Trend


Current Trend

Baseline (2010-2011): 79.5%
Current (2019-2020): 89.0%

Theme Educated


Percent of public high school students who graduate within four years (four-year adjusted-cohort graduation rate)

Why is it Important?

High school graduates have more job opportunities, higher expected lifetime earnings, and longer life expectancies than those without a diploma.1 Financially, high school graduates can expect to earn 34 percent more over their lifetime than high school dropouts, even if they do not pursue higher education.2 Higher graduation rates benefit society by increasing tax revenues, reducing use of government assistance, and increasing civic engagement such as voting and volunteering.3 This indicator measures the percent of public high school students who graduate with a regular diploma within four years4, highlighting the role of public schools in preparing students for future success. Education is becoming more important as we transition further toward a knowledge-based economy, making high graduation rates critical for maintaining a strong economy. 

How are we Doing?

The graduation rate in the St. Louis region increased from 79.5 percent in the baseline year 2010-2011 to 89.0 percent in 2019-2020. Comparable data for state and national levels are also available through the National Center of Educational Statistics (NCES). The latest NCES data shows graduation rates for the 2017-2018 school year. In 2017-2018, the St. Louis region had a higher graduation rate (89.6 percent) than 42 states including the state of Illinois (86.5 percent) and just about the same as  Missouri (89.2 percent).5 Nationally, the graduation rate in the 2017-2018 school year was 85.3 percent.

Among public school districts in the St. Louis region, the 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate ranges from 61.3 percent for Riverview Gardens to 100 percent for Brentwood. The graduation rate varies greatly based on race, ethnicity, and income. There is a large gap (12 percentage points) between the graduation rate of black students in the St. Louis region (80.1 percent) and that of white students (92.7 percent). The gap between white and black students is similar nationally. In the 2017-2018 school year, the graduation rate for white students was 89.1 percent, and it was 79.0 percent for black students. 

Geographic Level

St. Louis eight-county bi-state region, including Franklin, Jefferson, St. Charles, and St. Louis counties and the city of St. Louis in Missouri and Madison, Monroe, and St. Clair counties in Illinois. View map.


1Greenstone, Michael, Max Harris, Karen Li, Adam Looney, and Jeremy Patshnik, A Dozen Economic Facts About K-12 Education, The Hamilton Project, September 2012, accessed on 6 February 2014 at http://www.hamiltonproject.org/files/downloads_and_links/THP_12EdFacts_2.pdf

2 Carnevale, Anthony P., Stephen J. Rose, and Ban Cheah, The College Payoff: Education, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings, The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce, 5 August 2011; accessed on 6 February 2014 at http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/collegepayoff-summary.pdf

3The Alliance for Excellent Education,The High Cost of High School Dropouts: What the Nation Pays for Inadequate High Schools, November 2011; accessed on 12 February 2014 at http://all4ed.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/HighCost.pdf

4The four-year adjusted-cohort graduation rate is a relatively new standard for calculating high school graduation rates. The formula measures the percent of ninth grade students that graduate within four years with a regular diploma, and accounts for students transferring into and out of the district. The federal government began requiring this formula for the 2010-2011 school year, which is the earliest year that data is available for this indicator. The four-year adjusted cohort graduation rate does not include private school graduates, those who take longer than four years to complete high school, or those who earn a GED or alternative certificate of completion.

5National Center for Education Statistics, United States Department of Education

6 Bernhard, Blythe, St. Louis College Prep charter school to close after attendance investigation, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 13 March 2019 accessed at  https://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/st-louis-college-prep-charter-school-to-close-after-attendance/article_5557d12c-bbe3-571a-84e4-6a85a0ae74fd.html

Data Sources

Illinois State Board of Education and Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education