Nation maintains pace to reach 90 percent goal, as Hispanic and African-American students lead on growth of graduation rates
Low-income, special education, and big-city students lag significantly behind national average
WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 28, 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 report released today by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education.
With high school graduation rates moving in the right direction, the U.S. remains on track to meet the national goal of a 90 percent graduation rate by 2020. Since 2006, the overall average graduation rate has increased from 73 percent to 81 percent as measured by 2012 Averaged Freshman Graduation Rates (AFGR) recently released by the National Center for Education Statistics at the U.S. Department of Education. The largest gains have been achieved by Hispanic students with an improvement of 15 percentage points, from 61 percent in 2006 to 76 percent in 2012. African American graduation rates grew from 59 percent in 2006 to 68 percent in 2012.
“Dropout factories,” schools that graduate fewer than 60 percent of students, also continued to decrease in prevalence, with 32 percent fewer schools in 2012 compared to 2002. The number of dropout factories totaled 1,359 in 2012, down from 2,007 in 2002. Since 2002, 1.2 million fewer students, a decline of 47 percent, are enrolled in dropout factories. Additionally, the numbers of African-American and Hispanic students attending these schools has continued to decline.
In 2012, 23 percent of African-American students attended a dropout factory compared to 46 percent in 2002. Fifteen percent of Hispanic students attended a dropout factory compared to 39 percent in 2002.
These numbers and additional analysis are detailed in the 2014 Building a GradNation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic, the fifth annual report of its kind, authored by John Bridgeland and Jennifer DePaoli of Civic Enterprises and Robert Balfanz and Joanna Fox at the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University School of Education. The 2014 report is presented by lead sponsor AT&T with supporting sponsorship from Target.
“Our progress is amazing. Close to 400,000 more students per high school class are graduating now than in 2001 and more than 1 million fewer students attend dropout factories,” said Robert Balfanz, research scientist and co-director of the Everyone Graduates Center at the Johns Hopkins University School of Education. “The work that remains, however, is also stunning. In a significant number of states, one-third of students from low-income families are not graduating. Likewise, about 40 percent of young men of color and large numbers of students with disabilities do not receive diplomas. This, at a time, when a high school diploma is a necessary gateway to adult success.”
“This groundbreaking series of GradNation reports has identified gaps, proposed solutions, documented progress, measured success, and encouraged us all to persevere,” said Nicole Anderson, executive director of philanthropy, AT&T. “AT&T is committed to working together with America’s Promise Alliance and the many other community organizations that are on the ground every day ensuring that we are on track to raise high school graduation rates across the country.”
“Target’s longstanding support of education centers around our goal of putting more students on a path to graduation,” said Laysha Ward, president, Community Relations, Target. “We are pleased that this year’s report shows meaningful progress, and look forward to continuing to partner with America’s Promise Alliance in helping all students reach their full potential.”
To reach the last 10 percent improvement for the goal means changing the possibilities for nearly 2 million students who will drop out between now and 2020 if nothing is done. The U.S. must focus on efforts in five key geographic and demographic areas to achieve the 90 percent graduation goal:
- The opportunity gap. Graduation rates for low-income students – those who participate in the federal free and reduced-price school lunch program – are below or well below the national average in 41 states, while middle- and upper-income students are exceeding the national graduation rate in 40 states. In fact, 14 states have met the 90 percent graduation rate goal among their middle- and upper-income students. (see maps included)
- Big cities. More than half of the 1,300 remaining dropout factories are in large urban areas. Most big cities with high concentrations of low-income students had graduation rates in the 60 percent range, with some as low as 50 percent.
- Special education. Students with learning and other disabilities represent 13 percent of all students nationally, and the average graduation rate for these students lags the national average by 20 percent.
- California. It is the most populous state with the highest poverty rate in the U.S. and a population that is 61 percent non-white. The state is also a laboratory for innovation in education.
- Graduation rates for young men of color in key states. Despite progress made, graduation rates are still far too low for these populations. In key states in the South and Midwest, graduation rates for African-American males are in the 50 and 60 percents.
As the focus is placed on five areas where the opportunity gap is most acute, the following local and community efforts provide promising actions for reaching the 90 percent graduation goal:
- Address chronic absenteeism. Chronic absence, or missing more than 10 percent of the school year for any reason, is an early warning indicator of a potential dropout. In fact, chronic absenteeism as early as first grade can be associated with lower academic performance.
- Improve middle schools. The middle grades are pivotal years that can either put a student successfully on the path to high school, college and career or begin a downward trajectory of disengagement and low achievement in key subjects.
- Re-engage youth who have left school. The 6.7 million young people between ages 18 and 24 who are not in school, have not graduated and are not working, need attention. In 2012, the employment rate for young adults who did not complete high school reached just 48 percent compared to 64 percent for high school graduates and 87 percent for those who earned a bachelor’s degree.
- Provide more and better adult and peer supports. To succeed in school and life, students need skills like self-awareness, self-control, persistence, collaboration and conflict resolution. Positive role models help instill these skills and provide encouragement to students for reaching their goals even in the face of adversity.
“The dropout challenge is no longer a silent epidemic, and many schools, districts and states are making significant gains in boosting graduation rates,” said 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 grad-uation 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.”
The report’s principal authors, Bridgeland and Balfanz, will discuss its findings at the April 28 opening session of the 2014 Building a GradNation Summit, held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC. The summit is the premier annual event of the GradNation 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.
“Gains in this year’s report are both remarkable and encouraging,” said John Gomperts, president and CEO, America’s Promise Alliance. “The data presented show that these challenges are not insurmountable, and provide greater clarity for the GradNation campaign. In particular, kids need living and learning environments that are fortified against the effects of poverty.”
For more details, including state graduation rates, more data on “dropout factories,” and additional findings, please see the full report. A copy of the 2014 report and related state data indices are available online April 28 at:
www.civicenterprises.net – Full Building a GradNation report
www.every1graduates.org – Complete state-by-state indices
www.GradNation.org/GradReport – Sortable tables of select state data
impact.all4ed.org – State-by-state economic indicators of graduation rates
The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization dedicated to ensuring that all students, particularly those who are traditionally underserved, graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship. www.all4ed.org.
America’s Promise Alliance is the nation’s largest partnership dedicated to improving the lives of children and youth. We bring together more than 400 national organizations representing nonprofit groups, businesses, communities, educators and policymakers. Through our Grad Nation campaign, we mobilize Americans to end the high school dropout crisis and prepare young people for college and the 21st century workforce. Building on the legacy of our founding chairman General Colin Powell, America’s Promise believes the success of young people is grounded in the Five Promises—Caring Adults, Safe Places, A Healthy Start, Effective Education, and Opportunities to Help Others. For more information, visit AmericasPromise.org.
Civic Enterprises is a public policy and strategy firm that helps corporations, nonprofits, foundations, universities and governments develop and spearhead innovative public policies to strengthen our communities and country. Created to enlist the private, public and nonprofit sectors to help address our Nation’s toughest problems, Civic Enterprises fashions new initiatives and strategies that achieve measurable results in the fields of education, civic engagement, economic mobility, and many other domestic policy issues. www.civicenterprises.net.
The Everyone Graduates Center, part of the Center for Social Organization of Schools at the School of Education at Johns Hopkins University, seeks to identify the barriers to high school graduation, develop strategic solutions to overcoming these barriers and build local capacity to implement and sustain the solutions so that all students graduate prepared for adult success. www.every1graduates.org.