“When we understand that no matter what you look like, where you come from, what faith you are, whether you’re a boy or a girl, that you should have great opportunities to succeed and that requires you to put effort into it,” Obama told students at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School.
The White House announced earlier that US high school graduation rates for the 2014-2015 school year was the highest number on record at 83.2%, although significant disparities still exist between groups of students.
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, every group — from race to low-income students to those with disabilities — had increases in graduation rates, although the numbers vary from group to group.
Obama spoke about the importance of furthering education past high school and stressed to the students in the audience to fill out FAFSA forms, but also said more needs to be done by federal and state governments to improve education and funding for higher education.
White students in the 2014-2015 year, had a graduation rate of 87.6% — 13 percentage points higher than black students (74.6%), 9.8 percentage points higher than Hispanic students (77.8%) and 16 percentage points higher than American Indian/Alaska Native students (71.6%).
“We live in a global economy and when you graduate you’re no longer going to be competing just with somebody here in DC for a great job,” Obama warned the students.
“You’re competing with somebody on the other side of the world in China or in India, because jobs can go where ever they want because of the internet, because of technology. And the best jobs are going to go to the people that are the best educated whether in India or China or anywhere in the world.”
The graduation rate is up about 1 percentage point from the 2013-2014 school year which saw graduation rates at 82.3%. The graduation rate has raised about 4 percentage points since the 2010-2011 school year, which was the first year all states used a consistent measure of high school completion, according to the White House.
Education Secretary John King on a conference call with reporters Monday said that credit for the graduation rates “goes to teachers and families and students in their school community” but also pointed to investments made by the administration in technology and early education as factors.