High School Graduation Rates Are Improving
High school graduation rates are on the rise, especially among Hispanics and African-Americans. An estimated 78.2 percent of all students who were freshmen in 2006 received diplomas in 2010, a 6.5 point increase over 2001’s rate of 71.7 percent, according to a recent report by America’s Promise Alliance and other organizations. The increase is the most significant in 40 years. Hispanics showed a gain of more than 10 percentage points (61 percent to 71.4 percent), and the African-American rate improved seven percentage points (59.2 percent to 66.1 percent.)
The gains in graduation rates coincide with stepped-up efforts across the country to reform large, low-performing schools with high dropout rates. Districts around the country have closed some schools with the worst track records and reorganized others, often by breaking them into smaller schools within schools and assigning them new leaders. Educators have focused on providing more individualized instruction, building support networks for ninth-graders, and intervening early with students whose chronic absences, poor behavior or struggles in reading and math signal trouble. In addition, schools and nonprofits have matched tutors, mentors, and other caring adults with students most in need.
Recommendations for Legislators
Over a period of two years, the National Conference of State Legislatures Task Force on School Dropout Prevention and Recovery studied and debated the issues of high school dropout prevention and recovery, the education challenges facing our states and nation, and the role of state legislatures in helping all students navigate a path to success. Appointed in 2009, the bipartisan task force was composed of 14 legislators—seven Republicans and seven Democrats—all veteran members and leaders of education and youth policy in their state legislatures.
The resulting report, "A Path to Graduation for Every Child: State Legislative Roles and Responsibilities," was written by state legislators for state legislators and is a call to action. The January 2011 report includes an analysis of why kids drop out of school, key policy recommendations, and state legislative examples.