The most comprehensive graduation research report of late found that for the first time the U.S. is on track to meet the national GradNation goal of a 90 percent high school graduation rate by the class of 2020. The national high school graduation rate increased 6.5 percentage points since 2001 with an average growth of 1.25 percentage points each year from 2006-2010 to 78.2. As a result of this acceleration more than 200,000 additional students received diplomas in 2010 than in 2006. The 2013 report update of Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, released February 25 by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University, shows that the nation continues to make progress.

This growth was driven in large part by significant gains in Hispanic and African American graduation rates, with Hispanic rates achieving the greatest gains, jumping 10 percentage points from 61 percent in 2006 to 71.4 percent in 2010. Similarly, African American graduation rates rose from 59.2 percent in 2006 to 66.1 percent in 2010. The South also contributed to this accelerated pace, home to five of the top 10 states with the greatest improvements since 2006 but also the top seven states with the greatest decline in “dropout factory” high schools.  A “dropout factory” is a high school in which 12th grade enrollment is 60 percent or less of 9th grade enrollment three years earlier.

The number of “dropout factories” totaled 1,424 in 2011, down from 1,550 in 2010 and a high of 2,007 in 2002.  The number declined by 583 or 29 percent between 2002 and 2011. As a result, nearly 1.1 million fewer students attended dropout factories in 2011 than in 2002. More significantly the report found the number of African American and Hispanic students attending these schools declined dramatically. In 2011, 25 percent of African American students attended a dropout factory compared to 46 percent in 2002 and 17 percent of Hispanic students down from a high of 39 percent in 2002. 

Key Report Findings

  • The national graduation rate increased 5 percentage points since 2006 and 2.7 percentage points between 2009 and 2010. 
  • The number of “dropout factories” decreased by 583 between 2002 and 2011.
  • While increases in African American and Hispanic graduation rates drove the accelerated pace, significant disparities remain.  The nation’s ability to close these gaps will determine whether it meets and maintains a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

Watch a clip of President Obama and General Powell discussing America’s Promise Alliance and the first Building a GradNation report.

Civic Marshall Plan to Build a GradNation

Just as Secretary of State George C. Marshall launched a plan to rebuild Europe after World War II, we must rebuild our broken school system. We are launching a “Civic Marshall Plan,” comprising policymakers, educators, business leaders, community allies, parents and students to address the dropout epidemic by focusing on the dropout factory high schools and their feeder elementary and middle schools. In tune with the call from President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan earlier this year to increase the U.S. graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, we are working to mobilize Americans to quicken the pace. To reach these national goals, the graduation rate must rise by an average of 1.5 percentage points per year over the next decade. The Civic Marshall Plan outlines the benchmarks to ensure the attainment of those goals, and focuses on the strategic deployment of human resources to help school districts and states accelerate improvement.