Will High School Graduation Rates Reach 90% by 2020?

GradNation report examines progress and obstacles

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The majority of black and brown high school students you encounter every day—a startling 63%—attend low-graduation-rate high schools.

In the “greatest nation in the world,” nearly 1 million students attend low-graduation-rate high schools—that is, schools that have an Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate of 67% or below, as defined by the Every Student Succeeds Act.

These sobering statistics are included in a report released by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University, in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, the four organizations that lead the GradNation campaign.

The 2016 Building a Grad Nation report is the seventh annual update on the challenges states and school districts encounter in their efforts to increase high school graduation rates to 90% by 2020. To stay on track to reach that goal, the national graduation rate needs to increase by 1.3 percentage points annually. The year 2014 is the first year that the rate fell short, increasing just .9%.

If the needs of students who have historically been underserved—particularly students of color and low income students—are not addressed, the graduation rate of 90% will not be met in 2020. The emphasis must be on all students.

“Regardless of the type of school,” said John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises, in a statement, “we must insist upon results and ensure that every student receives a high quality education. We need to get beyond labels and get all students what they need to succeed.”

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According to the report, in 41 states low income students made up more than 40% of the enrollment in low-graduation-rate high schools; in 12 of those states, low income students made up more than 75% enrollment.

In 15 states, black students made up more than 40% of enrollment in high schools that have a graduation rate of 67% or less.

The report exposes the racial and socio-economic isolation of these underserved students, not only in regular district high schools, but also in charters (30% of which have low graduation rates), alternative schools (which serve at-risk students, 60% of whom are students of color), and virtual schools.

The report includes policy recommendations, including requiring states to develop evidence-based plans to improve low-graduation-rate high schools. It is distressing to note that some states do much better with difficult student populations than others. Would that ineffective states were required to explain why they are not using methods that other states have found more successful.

For more information about the 2016 GradNation report, visit this website.



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