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New research reveals for the first time U.S. is on track to meet goal of 90 percent national high school graduation rate by 2020

Progress Has Accelerated since 2006 Driven by Large Gains in the South and Among African American and Hispanic Graduation Rates

 

The nation’s work to improve graduation rates took a significant leap forward according to a report released today by Civic Enterprises,  the Everyone Graduates Center,  America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education. The most comprehensive graduation research report of late found that for the first time the U.S. is on track to meet the national Grad Nation 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. In President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 State of the Union address, he set a 90 percent graduation goal by 2000; this goal was not achieved but reaffirmed by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama. 

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 twelfth grade enrollment is 60 percent or less of ninth 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.  These numbers and additional analysis are detailed in the 2013 Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, the fourth annual report authored by John Bridgeland and Mary Bruce of Civic Enterprises and Robert Balfanz and Joanna Fox at the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University. The 2013 report is sponsored by AT&T with additional support from State Farm®.

“It’s exciting to see that the nation’s collective efforts are working,” said Robert Balfanz, co-author of the Grad nation report and research scientist at Johns Hopkins University. “Because of this work, 200,000 more students graduated high school in 2010 than if the graduation rate had not improved since 2006. But for the country to reach its 2020 graduation goal, the states that aren’t on-pace need to get in the game.”

The report shows, while there is no one solution, the acceleration of graduation rate increases coincided with the onset of targeted education reform efforts in the mid 2000’s. During that time, active and sustained dropout prevention efforts in a few big cities began to spread more broadly while researchers, foundations, governors, policymakers, school districts, communities, businesses and others came together in an unprecedented mobilization around the dropout crisis. In addition, better data and its usage, combined with heightened awareness of the problem, its impact and solutions along with a renewed focus on high quality instruction, accountability, and alternative pathways to graduation became more main stream. A combination of all this resulted in increases in student and school achievement.

“This is no longer the Silent Epidemic that we wrote about six years ago,” says John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises and co-author of the report. “For the first time, the nation is on pace to meet the 90 percent high school graduation rate goal. While this is a historic milestone, graduation gaps affecting our most disadvantaged students threaten our progress in reaching this goal and fulfilling the American dream for all.”

Other findings include:

  • The national graduation rate increased 5 percentage points since 2006 and 2.7 percentage points between 2009 and 2010.
    • Only two states, Wisconsin and Vermont, already have a graduation rate of 90 percent.
    • 20 states saw an average gain of one percent or higher each year between 2006 and 2010. Tennessee led the pack with an average annual growth of 2.45 percentage points followed by Louisiana (+2.33), Vermont (+2.28), Alaska (+2.25) and California (+2.25).
    • Nearly half of the 20 states with the most accelerated progress since 2006 are in the South: Tennessee, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, South Carolina, Louisiana, Alabama, and Virginia.
    • Nine states stayed flat or saw declines in their graduation rates during this period: Montana (0.00), Utah (0.00), Hawaii (-0.02), Delaware (-0.20), Rhode Island (-0.35), South Dakota (-0.68), Nebraska (-0.80), Arkansas (-1.35) and Connecticut (-1.68).
    • With their current pace of increase, 18 states are on pace to meet the 2020 90 percent goal, while seven states have to accelerate their growth a bit and maintain more than a percentage point growth per year to meet the goal. Nearly half of all states (23) are off-pace and have to accelerate growth significantly and/or reverse declines of recent years to reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.
  • The number of “dropout factories” decreased by 583 between 2002 and 2011.
    • Seven southern states: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and Texas led the nation in “dropout factory” declines.  These states saw a combined total decrease of 439 dropout factories since 2011, which equates to more than a half million (571,707) fewer students attending these schools in these states.
    • Four states saw a decline of more than 20 dropout factories: Mississippi (-26), Kentucky (-25), Louisiana (-24) and California (-23).
    • Massachusetts, Rhode Island, North Dakota and Montana saw no change in their dropout factory numbers and nine states increased the number of dropout factory schools.  Ohio had the largest increase (+77) between 2002 and 2011.
    • Suburban areas and towns both decreased their number of dropout factories by 44 percent, rural areas by 27 percent and cities by 18 percent. Cities remain home to the most dropout factory high schools, with 745 in 2011, down from 905 in 2002.
  • 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.
    • 20 states still have graduation rates of 66 percent or below for African Americans and 16 states for Hispanics.  Minnesota is home to the most significant graduation gap in the nation between White and African American students (-35 percentage points) and between White and Hispanic students (-33 percentage points).  In total, 40 states have double digit gaps between White and African American students and 35 states between White and Hispanic students. Hawaii was home to the smallest gap for both groups.

The report used the best and most recent data available: the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) for 2010, Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) for 2009-2011 and Promoting Power for 2011. The report provides a comprehensive comparison of all state graduation rates by AFGR and ACGR to examine trends and found that although most states have similar graduation rates between the two methodologies, nine states (Texas, Indiana, Connecticut, Arkansas, Minnesota, Colorado, Mississippi, Oregon and Georgia) showed inconsistencies (at least+/- 5 point difference) among the two rates. For the first time, nearly all states reported ACGR— 47 states and the District of Columbia—which is the newer and more accurate graduation rate calculation.  ACGR data is not available for Idaho, Oklahoma and Kentucky.

In addition to the data, the report highlights innovative programs and efforts around the country involving schools, nonprofits, businesses, media, educational and governmental institutions, including case studies in: Texas; Orlando, FL; the South; Shelbyville, IN and Portland, OR.

“This groundbreaking series of Grad Nation reports has identified problems, proposed solutions, documented progress, measured success, and encouraged us all to persevere, said Charlene Lake, AT&T chief sustainability officer and senior Vice President for Public Affairs. "We're proud to be a sponsor of such quality and critical work."

“The incremental progress demonstrated in this year's report is good, and we should be encouraged by it,” Lake added. “But we can't let ourselves be distracted by success.  We must be energized by it.  And we must agree together to double down on our efforts.”

The report’s authors will discuss the complete findings of the report at the February 25 opening session of the 2013 Building a Grad Nation Summit.  The summit is the annual premier event of the Grad Nation campaign, a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, organizations and communities working together to raise the national high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020, with no school graduating fewer than 80 percent of its students on time.

“This report tells us that the nation is making real and important progress in high school graduation,” said John Gomperts, president and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance. “Today, one million fewer students are trapped in failing schools than was the case a decade ago. The task now is to learn from what has worked, and redouble the efforts to stay on track toward the goal of 90% graduation by 2020.”  

Dropout Factory High Schools, by Region and State, 2002 and 2011

 

 

Region

 

2002 Total Number of Schools

 

2011 Total Number of Schools

 

Change

 

Change in the Number of High School Students Attending a High School with a Promoting Power At or Below 60%

 

NORTHEAST

 

 

 

New York

 

145

 

133

 

-12

 

-103,040

 

New Hampshire

 

5

 

2

 

-3

 

-467

 

New Jersey

 

24

 

15

 

-9

 

-18,688

 

Maine

 

4

 

0

 

-4

 

-2,796

 

Massachusetts

 

24

 

24

 

0

 

-10,820

 

Vermont

 

3

 

0

 

-3

 

-2,311

 

Connecticut

 

13

 

5

 

-8

 

-13,993

 

Rhode Island

 

7

 

7

 

0

 

331

 

Pennsylvania

 

48

 

43

 

-5

 

-24,260

 

Subtotal

 

273

 

229

 

-44

 

-176,044

 

MIDWEST

 

 

 

Indiana

 

30

 

16

 

-14

 

-22,788

 

Ohio

 

75

 

152

 

77

 

22,317

 

Illinois

 

63

 

57

 

-6

 

-15,177

 

Wisconsin

 

16

 

13

 

-3

 

-3,925

 

Missouri

 

25

 

23

 

-2

 

-4,572

 

Michigan

 

79

 

64

 

-15

 

-32,311

 

Iowa

 

4

 

3

 

-1

 

-3,317

 

South Dakota

 

3

 

2

 

-1

 

-963

 

Kansas

 

9

 

7

 

-2

 

-4,282

 

Minnesota

 

6

 

5

 

-1

 

-3,753

 

North Dakota

 

0

 

0

 

0

 

0

 

Nebraska

 

4

 

5

 

1

 

2,286

 

Subtotal

 

314

 

347

 

33

 

-66,485

 

SOUTH

 

 

 

Texas

 

240

 

108

 

-132

 

-172,792

 

Georgia

 

156

 

108

 

-48

 

-58,234

 

Alabama

 

71

 

22

 

-49

 

-34,390

 

Tennessee

 

58

 

23

 

-35

 

-33,940

 

South Carolina

 

101

 

62

 

-39

 

-34,599

 

Florida

 

162

 

69

 

-93

 

-185,652

 

Kentucky

 

39

 

14

 

-25

 

-18,936

 

Mississippi

 

52

 

26

 

-26

 

-25,339

 

Louisiana

 

64

 

40

 

-24

 

-27,417

 

West Virginia

 

6

 

4

 

-2

 

-1,605

 

Virginia

 

26

 

19

 

-7

 

-8,075

 

Oklahoma

 

15

 

14

 

-1

 

-4,039

 

Delaware

 

8

 

7

 

-1

 

-3,159

 

North Carolina

 

106

 

63

 

-43

 

-52,100

 

Arkansas

 

5

 

7

 

2

 

1,025

 

District of Columbia

 

2

 

13

 

11

 

6,283

 

Maryland

 

17

 

22

 

5

 

5,308

 

Subtotal

 

1128

 

621

 

-507

 

-647,661

 

WEST

 

 

 

Washington

 

32

 

17

 

-15

 

-23,621

 

Arizona

 

37

 

21

 

-16

 

-26,726

 

Colorado

 

32

 

14

 

-18

 

-27,725

 

Alaska

 

9

 

3

 

-6

 

-5,719

 

Oregon

 

7

 

2

 

-5

 

-4,897

 

Montana

 

1

 

1

 

0

 

-232

 

New Mexico

 

27

 

21

 

-6

 

-9,602

 

Wyoming

 

1

 

0

 

-1

 

-1,011

 

Utah

 

1

 

5

 

4

 

4,487

 

Idaho

 

2

 

8

 

6

 

10,310

 

Hawaii

 

6

 

11

 

5

 

-2

 

California

 

129

 

106

 

-23

 

-140,572

 

Nevada

 

8

 

18

 

10

 

21,173

 

Subtotal

 

292

 

227

 

-65

 

-204,137

 

Total

 

2007

 

1424

 

-583

 

-1,094,327

 

             

 

Source: U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. (1998-2011). Public Elementary/Secondary School Universe Surveys.

 

Are States On Pace to Reach 90% Graduation Rate Goal by 2020?

 

 

State

 

Average Annual Growth in AFGR, 2006-2010 (% Point)

 

2010 AFGR (%)

 

Nation

 

1.25

 

78.2

 

Tennessee

 

2.45

 

80.4

 

Louisiana

 

2.33

 

68.8

 

Vermont

 

2.28

 

91.4

 

Alaska

 

2.25

 

75.5

 

California

 

2.25

 

78.2

 

New York

 

2.15

 

76.0

 

South Carolina *

 

2.03

 

68.2

 

Georgia

 

1.88

 

69.9

 

Florida

 

1.80

 

70.8

 

Kansas

 

1.73

 

84.5

 

Virginia

 

1.68

 

81.2

 

Maine

 

1.63

 

82.8

 

Texas

 

1.61

 

78.9

 

North Dakota

 

1.58

 

88.4

 

Alabama

 

1.41

 

71.8

 

New Hampshire

 

1.30

 

86.3

 

North Carolina

 

1.28

 

76.9

 

Colorado

 

1.08

 

79.8

 

Washington

 

1.08

 

77.2

 

Arizona

 

1.05

 

74.7

 

Indiana

 

0.97

 

77.2

 

Michigan

 

0.93

 

75.9

 

Wisconsin

 

0.91

 

91.1

 

Wyoming

 

0.90

 

80.3

 

Idaho

 

0.88

 

84.0

 

Oregon

 

0.82

 

76.3

 

Massachusetts

 

0.78

 

82.6

 

Kentucky

 

0.68

 

79.9

 

Missouri

 

0.68

 

83.7

 

New Jersey

 

0.60

 

87.2

 

Maryland

 

0.57

 

82.2

 

Illinois

 

0.55

 

81.9

 

Ohio

 

0.55

 

81.4

 

Minnesota

 

0.50

 

88.2

 

Nevada

 

0.50

 

57.8

 

Pennsylvania

*

 

0.40

 

84.1

 

West Virginia

 

0.35

 

78.3

 

Iowa

 

0.25

 

87.9

 

Oklahoma

 

0.18

 

78.5

 

Mississippi

 

0.07

 

63.8

 

New Mexico

 

0.01

 

67.3

 

Montana

 

0.00

 

81.9

 

Utah

 

0.00

 

78.6

 

Hawaii

 

-0.02

 

75.4

 

Delaware

 

-0.20

 

75.5

 

Rhode Island

 

-0.35

 

76.4

 

South Dakota

 

-0.68

 

81.8

 

Nebraska

 

-0.80

 

83.8

 

Arkansas

 

-1.35

 

75.0

 

Connecticut

 

-1.68

 

75.1

 

AFGR is the Averaged Freshman Graduation Rate.

 

* No 2006 AFGR, used 2005 AFGR

 

Source: Stillwell, R., and Sable, J. (2013). Public School Graduates and Dropouts from the Common Core of Data: School Year 2009–10: First Look (Provisional Data) (NCES 2013-309). U.S. Department of Education.