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Iowa’s high school graduation rate is 90.2 percent

Date: Monday, March 7, 2022

Long-term trend shows increase, despite one-year dip during pandemic

DES MOINES – Iowa’s high school graduation rate continues to show long-term progress, although the state experienced a decrease for the graduating class of 2021, according to figures released today by the Iowa Department of Education.

State data show 90.2 percent of students in Iowa’s Class of 2021 graduated within four years, down from 91.8 percent for the Class of 2020. Since 2011, Iowa’s four-year graduation rate climbed 1.9 percentage points overall, with large long-term gains in nearly every student demographic subgroup (see chart below). For example, graduation rates for students from low-socioeconomic status (SES) households have increased by 4.2 percentage points between 2011 and 2021.

“After many years of steady progress, this slight decline follows the first full school year disrupted by the pandemic,” said Ann Lebo, director of the Iowa Department of Education. “Students transitioned between learning models while facing a multitude of challenges during the 2020-21 school year. Our focus is on the success of all students and I am proud of the work that our school partners are doing to accelerate learning and to continue to support the individual needs of their students.”

Iowa received nearly $775 million through a third round of federal relief funding for Pre-K-12 schools to address a variety of pandemic-related expenses and strategies. At least 20 percent of the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER III) funds available to school districts must be used to address disruptions to learning caused by the pandemic. Districts have until September 2024 to expend the funds.

Iowa graduation rates are calculated with a formula established by the U.S. Department of Education. Unique student identification numbers allow school districts to account for all ninth-grade students as they move through high school. At the state level, the method helps determine when a student graduates, even if the student has switched districts during high school.

Iowa’s five-year graduation rate — which reflects students who were part of a graduating class but took an extra year to finish high school — was 93.5 percent for the Class of 2020, down slightly from 93.8 percent for the Class of 2019.

Iowa’s annual dropout rate reflects the percent of students in grades 9-12 who drop out of school during a single year. The annual dropout rate was 2.85 percent for the 2020-21 school year. The state’s 2020-21 dropout rate represents 4,332 students in grades 9 through 12.

More information on Iowa’s graduation rates and dropout rates, including rates by school district and student subgroup, are available on the Department of Education’s Graduation Rates and Dropout Rates webpage.