Washington, DC - U.S. students are graduating from high school at a higher rate than ever before, according to new data from the U.S. Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics. The nation's high school graduation rate hit 81 percent in 2012-13, the highest level since states adopted a new uniform way of calculating graduation rates five years ago.

"America's students have achieved another record-setting milestone," U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. "We can take pride as a nation in knowing that we're seeing promising gains, including for students of color. This is a vital step toward readiness for success in college and careers for every student in this country, and these improvements are thanks to the hard work of teachers, principals, students and families."

Since 2010, states, districts and schools have been using a new, common metric—the adjusted cohort graduation rate—to promote greater accountability and develop strategies that will help reduce dropout rates and increase graduation rates in schools nationwide. For three consecutive years, graduation rates have continued to climb, which reflects continued progress among America's high school students.

"When schools are held accountable and students are given support to help them stay in school and on track, real progress is possible," said John Gomperts, president and CEO of America's Promise Alliance, leader of the GradNation campaign to reach a 90 percent on-time high school graduation rate by 2020. "Because of increases over the past decade or so, nearly two million additional young people have high school diplomas, giving them a chance at a more promising future. However, much work remains. Looking forward, we will focus on what more can be done so that all young people have the foundation they need to succeed in school and life."

The campaign plans to release its 2015 "Building a GradNation" report in early May.

To view the data—including a state-by-state breakdown—click here. The Department hopes to release graduation rates for minority students, students with disabilities and English language learners in coming weeks.

Today's economy calls for critical skills that go beyond the basics. To ensure the economic strength of our country, students must graduate high school ready for college, careers and life. The Department has invested more than $1 billion in early education; implemented strategies that improve achievement and close opportunity gaps, and awarded billions of dollars through such grant programs as Race to the Top, Investing in Innovation, and School Improvement Grants; and expanded college access and affordability for families.

To maintain and accelerate the progress students are making, the Obama Administration is calling for an overhaul of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) —also known as No Child Left Behind—with a law that not only ensures students are prepared for college, careers and life, but also delivers on the promise of equity and real opportunity for every child. Secretary Duncan has called on Congress to create a bipartisan law that gives teachers and principals the resources they need, expands high-quality preschool for families and supports schools and districts in creating innovative new solutions to problems that translate into better outcomes for students.

For more information, visit www.ed.gov.