More than half of the students who enter high school will graduate, but not all graduates are teenagers. Those with a high school diploma statistically earn more money, have less health problems, commit fewer crimes and are less likely to be unemployed. Some high school dropouts have found success, however. Despite all the graduation statistics collected by government and private studies, numbers vary within reports.
According to a study by The National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, the United States' public high school graduation rate in 2006 was 68.6 percent. The top state graduation rate was New Jersey at 86.3 percent, while the lowest was Nevada at 50.5 percent. The National Center for Education Statistics, reported that 73.2 percent of public school students in the class of 2006 graduated on time in four years
Oldest and Youngest Graduates
Cecil Smith of Westlake, California, is the oldest known recipient of a General Educational Development (GED) degree. He dropped out of school in the 1920s and earned his degree some 80 years later at age 94. The youngest known high school and college graduate is Michael Kearney of Mobile, Alabama. He finished a home-school high school program at age 6 and at 10 earned a bachelor's degree.
Three celebrities who graduated as valedictorian of their high school class include parody musician Weird Al Yankovic, model Cindy Crawford and country musician Emmylou Harris.
According the U.S. Census, 11 percent of people ages 18 to 24, were not enrolled in high school and did not have a high school diploma in 2006. The states with the highest dropout rates were along the country's southern border.
Successful High School Dropouts
Not having a diploma isn't necessarily a barrier to success, some notable high school dropouts include billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson, who owns Virgin Group, which includes Virgin Atlantic Airlines and the Virgin record label, the late Dave Thomas, former owner and founder of Wendy's, one of the United State's largest restaurant chains and former President Abraham Lincoln.
In 2006, adults with advanced degrees earned four times more than workers lacking a high school diploma, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Workers with advanced degrees (master's, professional or doctoral) averaged $82,320 in earnings, those with a bachelor's degree earned $56,788, while those with a high school diploma made $31,071. Workers without a high school diploma earned $20,873.
According to a 2009 New York Times article titled "Large Urban-Suburban Gap Seen in Graduation Rates," the Department of Education overstated high school graduation rates for decades and used several controversial reporting practices, such as classifying high school dropouts with a GED as graduates. State reporting methods also varied widely.
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