Great American High School: Reforming the Nation’s Remaining Low-Performing High Schools
Through much of the last century, high schools served as a driver of individual mobility and community progress. Today, however, in too many school districts and communities, high schools are no longer fulfilling that promise. There remain about 1,300 traditional high schools in need of serious improvement and redesign. With an average graduation rate of 49 percent, these low-graduation-rate high schools are concentrated in 18 states from the inner city to the heartland and sit at the fault lines of race, class, and inequity in America.
At the same time, clear rays of hope exist. Over the last two decades, the number of low-performing high schools has been cut in half, as high school graduation rates have reached an all-time high. While graduation at the remaining low-performing high schools still is just a 50-50 proposition, these schools make up a small percentage of high schools throughout the country, totaling just 10 percent of all traditional high schools enrolling 300 or more students.
From this progress, a clear vision emerges on how high schools can be reformed to once again serve as engines of economic and community development. This is why the Great American High School report, authored by Civic Enterprises and the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University, was released in partnership with America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education, as part of the GradNation campaign working to increase the national on-time graduation rate to 90 percent.
The report identifies the progress made and remaining challenges in enabling all students to graduate from high school ready for college or career; documents the scale, scope, and location of the remaining low-performing high schools; shows the challenges these schools face; details what we know about effective and evidence-based high school reform; and lays out a path forward for high school redesign in the communities and school districts that need further support.
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: