GradNation State Activation Initiative

The GradNation State Activation initiative is a collaboration between America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson working to increase high school graduation rates to 90 percent. The three-year initiative focuses on increasing graduation rates by investing in three key things: encouraging statewide innovation and collaboration; sharing that knowledge and replicating what works; and developing successful models all states can replicate.

America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson have made a $600,000 investment in grants to bolster organizations with innovative approaches to increase U.S. graduation rates. The grantees, located in Arizona, Massachusetts and Minnesota, will each receive a $200,000 grant and have demonstrated a commitment to preparing more young people with the skills necessary to graduate from high school and succeed in college, work and life.

Grantees were selected from a diverse pool of 41 applicants in 26 states. Applicants included state education agencies, nonprofit organizations, statewide coalitions and collaborative groups. All applicants – along with other organizations and communities working to increase statewide graduation rates – have been invited to join a new GradNation Activation Online Community, a hub for sharing strategies and successful practices, asking questions and hopefully sparking conversations.



Graduation Rates By State

While the recently released Building a Grad Nation Data Brief  shows that the country reached a record high graduation rate of 82.3 percent in 2014, progress on the state level has been uneven, with statewide graduation rates ranging from 68.5 to 90.5 percent. The research also finds that nearly all states graduate significantly lower percentages of students from low-income families, students of color, English-language learners, and students with disabilities.


2013-14 Overall Adjusted Cohort Graduation Rate (ACGR) Map
Hover over any State for additional information.

Map Key






The Grantees



Arizona Mayors’ Education Roundtable: Arizona Activation Initiative

Despite numerous attempts at state education reform, little progress has been made in moving the needle on high school graduation rates in Arizona. One in five young people in Arizona has not completed high school, and a similarly large proportion of young people in the state are disconnected from education and employment. The data is clear: Arizona is failing to ensure that all of its young people are adequately prepared for adult success. With support from the GradNation State Activation initiative, WestEd—a nonprofit research, development, and service agency that works to promote excellence, equity and improved outcomes for children, youth and adults is the sponsor and project manager of the Arizona Mayors Education Roundtable. WestEd will work with the Mayors Education Roundtable to increase graduation rates in 16 Arizona cities.

With the mayors’ leadership, each of the 16 communities will create their own specific targets and strategies to increase high school graduation rates. WestEd will provide convening support to form 16 cross-sector partnerships among mayors, school boards, superintendents and community-based organizations. They will provide technical assistance and strategic advice to these communities to create specific targets and action plans for increasing high school graduation rates. They’ll also provide opportunities for these communities to work together and share best practices through regional and state summits.



Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education: Improving Graduation Rates for Massachusetts Students Whose First Language Is Not English

In recent years, Massachusetts has made progress increasing its high school graduation rate from just below 80 percent to 86 percent. Despite these large gains, challenges remain. Students whose first language is not English (FLNE)—a group that includes English Language Learners (ELL)—account for 30 percent of all young people who leave school without a diploma in the state. While Massachusetts has engaged in considerable work to improve educational outcomes for ELL students, the challenges that these young people and their families face go beyond academic English acquisition and require a more comprehensive approach.

Through support from the GradNation State Activation initiative, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), led by its Office of College and Career Readiness, will create a state-level coalition of up to 10 school districts to improve high school graduation rates for FLNE students. These districts—which account for nearly 66 percent of all FLNE students who left school without a diploma—will be provided grants to serve as demonstration sites for the planning and implementation of innovative programs and policies. ESE will facilitate a learning community in which the districts will receive professional development and training, share ideas, and collaborate with state and community partners.


Minnesota Alliance With Youth: GradMinnesota

The high school graduation rate in Minnesota improved last year to 81 percent, with steady gains in struggling metropolitan districts and significant improvement among students of color. Yet, one of the largest achievement gaps in the nation still remains. For example, while 81 percent of all Minnesota students graduated on time in 2014, only 66 percent of low-income students graduated with their peers. With support from America’s Promise Alliance and Pearson, Minnesota Alliance With Youth (“the Alliance”) will be positioned to catalyze action to close the achievement gap and reach a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020.

One of the Alliance’s key initiatives, GradMinnesota, is a statewide coalition in partnership with the Governor’s office and the Minnesota Department of Education. GradMinnesota connects individuals and communities to engage stakeholders at all levels to ensure that all young people in Minnesota will graduate from high school prepared for success in postsecondary opportunity, work, civic engagement, and life. The GradMinnesota coalition—youth, communities, schools, government agencies, businesses and families—has developed seven priority recommendations and goals to increase graduation rates including: creating and aligning services to recover and re-engage youth; replacing exclusionary discipline policies and practices with more effective alternatives; and increasing opportunities for mentoring throughout the state. Through public awareness, legislative advocacy, knowledge sharing, and collective impact, GradMinnesota will mobilize stakeholders throughout the state to implement these recommendations.


Grantees Receive

  • Three-year grant totaling up to $200,000.
  • Technical assistance and research support from America's Promise Alliance, its Center for Promise, and additional APA partners.
  • Capacity building and professional development opportunities.
  • Connections and networking opportunities with fellow grantees.
  • Support for sharing progress and results to a national audience.

The Learning Community

If you are involved in efforts at the state or community level to increase on-time high school graduation rates, join the GradNation Activation Online Community. This is a hub for sharing strategies and successful practices, asking questions and hopefully sparking conversations.

The Online Community is just one tool in our effort to support a broader learning community around increasing high school graduation rates. We will share stories and successful practices, identify key resources and tools, offer virtual learning opportunities and more to support and highlight state and community action helping to prepare all young people for college, work and life.

To join the GradNation Activation Online Community, contact Eboni-Rose Thompson at [email protected].

Spread the Word

Share this with your networks! Download easy-to share wording about the initiative and sample social media posts.

We are no longer accepting ideas for the GradNation State Activation initiative grants. Please stay connected with America's Promise for other funding and engagement opportunities.


For questions or for more information, email [email protected].


About Pearson

Pearson is the world’s leading learning company, with 40,000 employees in more than 80 countries working to help people of all ages to make measurable progress in their lives through learning.


About America’s Promise Alliance

America’s Promise Alliance leads an alliance of organizations, communities and individuals dedicated to making the promise of America real for every child. As its signature effort, the GradNation campaign mobilizes Americans to increase the on-time high school graduation rate to 90 percent by 2020 and prepare young people for postsecondary enrollment and the 21st century workforce.