U.S. on Track Toward High School Grad Rate Goal

Washington — Feb. 25

The nation’s effort to improve graduation rates among high school students has taken a significant leap forward, according to a new study.

A report released by Civic Enterprises, the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins School of Education, America’s Promise Alliance and the Alliance for Excellent Education found that, for the first time, the U.S. is on track to meet the national high school graduation goal of 90 percent by the class of 2020.

The national high school graduation rate has increased 6.5 percentage points since 2001, with an average growth of 1.25 percentage points each year from 2006-2010 to 78.2, according to the study.

These numbers and additional analysis are detailed in the “2013 Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Ending the High School Dropout Epidemic,” the fourth annual report authored by John Bridgeland and Mary Bruce of Civic Enterprises and Robert Balfanz and Joanna Fox at the Everyone Graduates Center at Johns Hopkins University.

As a result, more than 200,000 additional students received diplomas in 2010 than in 2006. In President George H.W. Bush’s 1990 State of the Union address, he set a 90 percent graduation goal by 2000, and while this goal wasn’t achieved, the 90 percent target has been reaffirmed by Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

Growth has been driven in large part by significant gains in Hispanic and African-American graduation rates, with Hispanic rates achieving the greatest gains, jumping 10 percentage points from 61 percent in 2006 to 71.4 percent in 2010.

Similarly, African-American graduation rates have risen from 59.2 percent in 2006 to 66.1 percent in 2010, according to the study. The South has also contributed to this accelerated pace, home to five of the top 10 states with the greatest improvements since 2006 but also the top seven states with the greatest decline in “dropout factory” high schools.

A “dropout factory” is a high school in which 12th grade — or senior class — enrollment is 60 percent or less of ninth grade enrollment three years earlier.

The number of “dropout factories” totaled 1,424 in 2011, down from 1,550 in 2010 and a high of 2,007 in 2002, the study found. The number declined by 583, or 29 percent, between 2002 and 2011.

As a result, nearly 1.1 million fewer students attended dropout factories in 2011 than in 2002, according to the study. More significantly, the report found the number of African-American and Hispanic students attending these schools declined dramatically. In 2011, 25 percent of African-American students attended a dropout factory compared to 46 percent in 2002 and 17 percent of Hispanic students down from a high of 39 percent in 2002.

Source: America’s Promise Alliance