Alaska’s graduation rate is the fifth-worst in the nation

Alaska's on-time graduation rate in 2016 was the fifth-worst in the nation, according to data released this week by the U.S. Department of Education.

Among all 50 states and Washington, D.C., Iowa had the highest four-year graduation rate in 2016 at 91.3 percent and Washington, D.C., had the lowest at 69.2 percent. The nationwide average rose to a record high, with 84.1 percent of students graduating on time.

In Alaska, 76.1 percent of students in the Class of 2016 graduated in four years — the rest dropped out, needed more time to earn academic credits, or may have pursued a GED instead of a high school diploma.

"Alaskans have agreed that we are not satisfied with our current graduation rates," Alaska Education Commissioner Michael Johnson said in a statement. "We want better for all of Alaska's students."

While Alaska's ranking remains low, its four-year graduation rate has steadily risen over the years, as has the nationwide average.

In 2011, Alaska's four-year graduation rate was 68 percent.

In 2017, the statewide four-year rate reached 78.2 percent and its preliminary five-year graduation rate hit 81.3 percent, according to the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development.


National graduation rate rankings for the Class of 2017 will not be available until next year.

Alaska's No. 47 ranking in 2016 was slightly worse than its No. 46 ranking in 2015, but better than its No. 48 ranking in 2014.

High school graduation requirements vary by state. Some states require students to take an exit exam or complete a senior project to get a diploma.

In Alaska, state law requires high school students to earn at least 21 academic credits to graduate.

Alaska students used to have to pass a high school exit exam to get a diploma, but the state Legislature eliminated that requirement in 2014. Then, Alaska students had to take the SAT, ACT or WorkKeys to graduate, but that part of state law expired in 2016.

Johnson said initiatives that would help increase Alaska's graduation rate included the state's Every Student Succeeds Act plan — which it recently submitted to comply with federal law — and its list of education commitments and recommendations gathered during Alaska's Education Challenge.

Tegan Hanlon

Tegan Hanlon was a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News between 2013 and 2019. She now reports for Alaska Public Media.