Building A GradNation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic (2014)
For the first time in U.S. history the nation’s high school graduation rate rose above 80 percent, according to the 2014 Building a GradNation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic report released April 28 by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education.
While more than eight in 10 public high school students are graduating on time, Building a GradNation shows more good news: the number of students enrolled in dropout factories has dropped 47 percent over the last decade, students of color have led the way in increasing graduation rates and leaving dropout factory high schools, and these increases have come as standards to graduate have gotten tougher.
The report, which was released at the 2014 Building A GradNation Summit, indicates the national graduation rate has crossed a momentous threshold.
The Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) shows an 80 percent on-time graduation rate.
- View interactive 2012 ACGR map
- View sortable table: Four-Year ACGR By State and Subgroup (Appendix E)
The Average Freshman Graduation Rate (AFGR) shows an 81 percent rate.
Awareness, Accountability, Answering the Call
These substantial increases have been driven by key factors beginning with increased national awareness of the crisis of low high school graduation rates, and efforts to spotlight the problem have helped to drive action to address it. Accountability of schools and higher expectations for better outcomes, better data to track the problem, and increased school performance and improvement, along with targeted school reform have also helped to drive this change. In addition, communities have answered the call, with increases in public, private and nonprofit supports for young people, while providing a high quality of service. Getting to a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020 will require focus on key areas, including closing the opportunity gap, tackling big city challenges, making special education students part of the solution, focusing on California, and accelerating the graduation rates for young men of color.
The opportunity gap: The link between low income and low academic performance is strong, but research shows it is solvable. Among non-low income students, 40 states are above the national average graduation rate of 80 percent. However, among low-income students, 41 states are below the national average. The good news is states with narrow achievement gaps between low-income and non-low income students appear to be those with the most robust interventions inplace to counteract the effects of poverty.Table 4: 2012 ACGR By State, Graduation Gap Between Low-Income and Non-Low-Income Students
State 2012 ACGR for Non-Low-Income Students
State 2012 ACGR for Low-Income Students
- Source: State level Overall and Low-Income ACGR rates retrieved from http://eddataexpress.ed.gov/state-tables-main.cfm. State level Non-Low-Income ACGR rates determined separately by the Everyone Graduates Center using data files obtained directly from U.S. Department of Education providing provisional SY2011-12 District Level Four-Year Regulatory Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rates. District level counts of cohort sizes for Overall and Low-Income groups were aggregated to produce state level cohort sizes and combined with state level Overall and Low-Income ACGR rates to deduce cohort sizes and ACGR rates for state level Non-Low-Income groups.
Big city challenges: While there are nearly 200 fewer dropout factories in urban areas in 2012 than in 2002, more than half of those remaining are located in large urban areas. Most big cities with high concentrations of low-income students still have graduation rates in the 60s, with a few in the 50s. To learn more, view and sort related data below.
- Table 6: 2012 Graduation Rates in Big City School Districts with High Concentration of Low Income Students
Students with disabilities: The national average graduation rate for students with disabilities is 20 percentage points lower than the overall national average. While graduation rates for these students varies greatly by state, these students represent 13 percent of all students. Without gains nationwide, a 90 percent graduation rate cannot be reached.
California: As the most populous state and most diverse state, California needs to be a focus of national attention and work. With the highest poverty rate in the country, a median household income 20 percent higher than the nation’s, and a population that is 61 percent non-Anglo, California is key to reaching 90 percent graduation rate nationally, but also remains a laboratory of innovation in education reform. California has 14 percent of the nations total student cohort, and 20 percent of the country’s low-income student cohort. The school age population is 52 percent Latino and 12 percent Asian/Pacific Islander, with a poverty rate among school age children of 63 percent. Despite these demographic challenges, and along with a tight budget the state has been making progress by focusing on educating students, better teacher training for students speaking different languages, major district reform efforts, ramped up community-based supports and large investments in out-of-school learning.
Young men of color: In spite of gains made by all students of color over the past six years, young men of color continue to lag behind other subgroups of students. In a sub-set of Midwestern and Southern states, which educate a large percentage of African American students, graduation rates for African American males remain in the upper 50s and low 60s. The nation cannot prosper when too many young men of color are still not receiving the supports and opportunities needed to obtain a high school diploma.
Tackling the above challenges will make reaching 90 percent a reality. However they do not solve the whole picture. The report highlights four key areas to focus efforts:
1. Chronic absenteeism, missing more than 10 percent of the school year, for any reason, is an early indicator of potential dropout. Often associated with lower academic performance, this can be seen as early as first grade.
2. Middle grades are pivotal years, setting a student on a path to high school, college and career, or a path to disengagement and low achievement in key subjects.
3. There are more than six million people between the ages of 18 and 24 who currently are not in school, in possession of a high school diploma or working. These young people cannot be forgotten, and need access to pathways to education and employment, and opportunities to take on the jobs of the future.
4. Success in life cannot just come from a classroom education. Students need to develop additional skills, such as self-awareness and self-control, and collaboration and conflict resolution. Public, private and nonprofit agencies are working together to provide young people with access to positive role models, not just from adults, but also giving them the opportunity to learn from peers.
Attaining a 90 percent national graduation rate will take a concerted, cross-sector effort to close graduation gaps and ensure all students have the educational opportunities and experiences that can take them into college and career.
Interactive Tables and Maps
- 2012 ACGR Interactive Map
- Table 4: 2012 ACGR By State, Graduation Gap Between Low-Income and Non-Low-Income Students
- Tables 5A and 5B: 012 State ACGR for Non-Low-Income Students and Low-Income Students
- Table 6: 2012 Graduation Rates in Big City School Districts with High Concentration of Low-Income Students
- Appendix E: Four-Year ACGR By State and Subgroup (Appendix E)
The 5 Promises
The 5 Promises represent conditions children need to achieve adult success. The collective work of the Alliance involves keeping these promises to America’s youth. This article relates to the promises highlighted below: