More high school students across the country are graduating on time but dropouts continue to be a significant national problem, according to a new report entitled “Building A Grad Nation,” authored by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center, at Johns Hopkins University, in Baltimore.
The nonprofit group, headed by former secretary of state Colin L.Powell, provides this annual update on graduation rates.
Overall, 40 states saw a bigger share of their high school students tossing tasseled hats into the air from 2002 to 2009, according to the study issued on March 19.
National Graduation Rate Up From 72 Percent To 75.5 Percent
The national graduation rate increased to 75.5 percent in 2009, up from 72 percent in 2001. And the number of “dropout factories” — high schools where at least 60 percent of students do not graduate on time — fell from 2,007 in 2002 to 1,550 in 2010.
Wisconsin boasted the highest 2009 graduation rate at 90.7 percent. Nevada brought up the rear with a rate of 56.3 percent. Some experts are cautioning, however, to be careful with these numbers, since states use varying methodologies to calculate dropout rates.
Nevertheless, the signs are positive.
From The Washington Post:
National progress in graduation rates was driven by significant gains made by a dozen states: New York, Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina, Missouri, Alabama, Massachusetts, Wisconsin and Kentucky. New York and Tennessee stand out because they recorded particularly large gains.
Nine of these states — Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, New York, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas — were also among those with the biggest declines in dropout factories.
Researchers found that graduation rates vary by race, with 91.8 percent of Asian students, 82 percent of whites, 65.9 percent of Hispanics and 63.5 percent of blacks graduating on time.
Tennessee Gets Award For “Most Improved”
The most-improved award for graduation rates goes to Tennessee, which saw an increase of 17.8 percentage points over those eight years, bringing it to 77.4 percent in 2009. New York won the silver medal with a 13-point increase to 73.5 percent.
In addition to having the lowest graduation rate, Nevada also featured the biggest drop of any state, seeing a 15.6 percentage point plunge from 2002. Connecticut saw the next-largest decline, 4.3 points, followed by a pair of southwestern states, New Mexico (2.6) and Arizona (2.2).
“We have continued to make good progress, but we also have much work ahead to achieve our goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate,’’ Powell and his wife, Alma J. Powell, wrote in a letter introducing the report.
Drop-Out Rates Still A Problem
The authors said there are proven strategies to tackle the problem, such as getting all students to read at grade level, raising the compulsory school attendance age to 18 and developing “early warning” systems to help identify students that might be at risk of later dropping out.
You may also recall that in his State of the Union address, President Obama encouraged states to pass laws to require students to stay in school until they graduate or they turn 18.
Of course, this is a very complicated issue, with many contributing factors. One obvious one is the level of poverty: in 2007–08, the average percentage of 12th-graders in high-poverty secondary schools who graduated with a diploma during the previous year was much lower than the average percentage for 12th-graders in low-poverty secondary schools.
The debate will continue, but at least the news is marginally good.
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