11/30/2010 01:11 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

National Dropout Rates Decreasing, Study Finds

Low graduation rates have long been a topic on the national radar.

According to a new report entitled "Building A Grad Nation," American schools may be making some progress in upping the numbers of high school students earning diplomas.

The study shows that the national graduation rate has risen from 72 percent in 2002 to 75 percent in 2008.

The modest gains, however, still leave a lot to be desired.

Education Week reports,

The Washington, D.C.-based policy firm Civic Enterprises, whose 2006 report, "The Silent Epidemic," helped galvanize state and federal attention on high school dropouts, reported Tuesday that most states have gained momentum in improving graduation rates, but will need to improve at least five times faster to meet a national goal of 90 percent of students graduating on time by 2020.

In addition to falling behind on national goals, the numbers continue to show the deep disparities between white and minority students.

TIME columnist Andrew J. Rotherham explains,

An achievement gap also persists: only 64% of Hispanic students and 62% of African Americans graduated in 2008, while 81% of white students did.