Press Release

GradNation Campaign Encouraged by Record U.S. High School Graduation Rate

America’s Promise Alliance Chair Alma Powell Calls for Redoubling Efforts to Reach 90 Percent by 2020

Washington, DC – October 17, 2016 – Today the White House and U.S. Department of Education announced that the nation’s high school graduation rate now stands at a record high, up from 82.3 percent in 2014 to 83.2 percent for 2015.

“We are excited and encouraged to see how much progress has been made in raising high school graduation rates over the past decade,” said Alma Powell, chair of America’s Promise Alliance, a leader of the GradNation campaign. “Each incremental increase means that more young people – who in the past might have been written off – are now on a path to adult success.

“So many people have been part of this success,” Powell continued, “but it will take all of us to go further. There is no limit to what organizations and individuals can do to help young people succeed. The school year is young, and I challenge all of you – as caring adults in your communities -- to get involved in tutoring, mentoring, and providing the resources – meals, clothing, books, health care, housing, rides, jobs, and love – that will make the difference.”

Four organizations leading the GradNation campaign to raise the high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 – the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Education – have issued the following press statement in response to today’s announcement:

“The continued increase of the nation's high school graduation rate is proof that when people unite behind an ambitious and important goal, anything is possible. The greatest credit for this historic high school graduation rate goes to students (particularly students of color and those from low-income families who are making the biggest gains), families and teachers who are putting in the work and showing great determination and resolve, often in the face of great challenges.

“These efforts in households and classrooms are being supported by key leaders in education, business and the nonprofit sector who recognize the importance of a high school diploma to individuals, families, communities and the nation’s economy. Many have joined the GradNation campaign in pushing for a big, national goal.

“What makes this new record powerful is that it is an example of a national commitment that spans administrations, parties and ideologies with hundreds of elected leaders at the local, state and national levels stepping up to help us reach our goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, their secretaries of education, and almost half of our nation’s governors – on both sides of the aisle – have put great emphasis on raising graduation rates. 

“In particular, states and districts around the country are making progress by understanding what works and implementing effective reforms and practices, like using data to make decisions, working to increase teacher quality, raising expectations for all students, paying attention to early warning signs, adding more caring adults into the lives of young people, fighting chronic absenteeism, and eliminating disciplinary practices that disproportionately impact students of color.

“Furthermore – thanks to the Obama administration – the Every Student Succeeds Act will preserve the common calculation of graduation rates and hold states accountable for graduation rates, which have been so critical to our progress to date. ESSA also includes a specific focus on high schools where one-third or more of students do not graduate and provides guidance to states and school districts for supporting homeless students.

“All of this effort is paying off. Over the past dozen years, more than 2 million additional young people have graduated from high school.

“Some may question whether the rise in graduation rates is real; some may believe that high school diplomas aren’t a valid indicator of success. We know that the progress is real, and agree that in today's economy, a high school diploma doesn't guarantee success. But we also know that the lack of a diploma consigns a young person to almost-certain failure.

“While we are pleased to see continued progress in raising graduation rates, we realize that much work remains. Too many young people are still being left behind. There are currently nearly 700,000 16-19 year olds who are not in school and do not have a high school diploma. If we are to reach 90 percent, we must redouble our efforts to close graduation gaps for key subgroups including students of color and students from low-income families, English-language learners, homeless students, and students with disabilities.

“As we look ahead to the next four years, we hope that the next president will continue to support these efforts. The future of the American dream and our nation’s dedication to equal opportunity are at stake.”

ABOUT GRADNATION: GradNation is a large and growing movement of dedicated individuals, community leaders, businesses and organizations working together to increase the on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and prepare young people for postsecondary enrollment and the workforce. The campaign is fueled by a belief that all children can thrive if they are provided with Five Promises: caring adults, safe places, a healthy start, effective education and opportunities to serve.

The GradNation campaign is led by the Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.  Support for the campaign is provided by AT&T, Target and State Farm.

BUILDING A GRAD NATION REPORT: The 2017 Building a Grad Nation report will be released next spring. An analysis of last year’s data can be found in the 2016 Building a Grad Nation report released earlier this year.  Also, a forthcoming report to be released later this year will examine the increasing high school graduation rates and college and career readiness, presenting the latest data on the progress the nation is making in improving the education-to-work pipeline and the challenges that remain.

MEDIA CONTACT: If you have questions or would like to speak with a representative from the GradNation campaign, please see below.  Spokespeople include:

  • John Gomperts, president & CEO, America’s Promise Alliance
    (Media contact: Daria Hall, [email protected])
  • Bob Balfanz, director, Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education
    (Media contact: Amanda Martorana, [email protected])
  • John Bridgeland, CEO, Civic Enterprises
    (Media contact: Kathleen McMahon, [email protected])
  • Bob Wise, president, Alliance for Excellent Education
    (Media contact: Jason Amos, [email protected])