United States on track to hit 90% graduation rate by 2020

Posted by Catherine Hiles on

The United States is on pace to hit a 90 percent graduation rate by the year 2020, according to the 2015 Building a Grad Nation report released Tuesday.

The national graduation rate stands at 81.4 percent, which is a 11 percentage point gain over the past 10 years, according to Civic Enterprises CEO John Bridgeland.

In that time, dropout factories – or rather high schools that produce a high number of dropouts – have been cut in half.

Hispanic and African-American students graduation rates have made large gains, with 15 and 9 percent, respectively, according to the report. In addition, there are 124 school districts throughout the country have tripled the national average.

Despite the positive news of the report, there remains work to be done in order to get to a 90 percent rate.

“Research uncovers dangerous gaps in graduation rates that put the American dream at risk,” Alma Powell, chair of the board of directors of America’s Promise Alliance, said Tuesday morning. 

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan released the following statement Tuesday afternoon: 

More young people are graduating from high school today than ever before—and gaps in graduation rates are closing—even as standards are rising. The credit for these gains goes to educators, students, parents and community partners. Yet we know that, in today’s knowledge-based economy, a high school diploma isn’t enough. So while we should be encouraged by projections like the one in this year’s Grad Nation report, we know that more hard work remains to truly prepare all—not just some—students for success in college, careers and life. Education must be the equalizer that can help overcome the odds stacked against too many of our students.

Almost 170 school districts of the top 500 districts made no progress or lost ground in improving their graduation rates, Bridgeland said. New York, Arizona and Illinois are among those states that have lost ground. 

Dr. Robert Balfanz, research scientist at the Center for Social Organization of Schools at Johns Hopkins University, estimated that 300,000 more graduates are needed in each class to reach 90 percent by 2020.  Of those graduates, the following needs to happen in order to ensure that all students are being reached and graduating:

  • Four out of five students needs to be low-income students
  • One out of three need to be African-American & Latino
  • One out of five English-language learners
  • 40 percent have to be students with disabilities

Bridgeland said he hopes to share this data and research with each state governor and state education commissioner.

To learn more about the nation’s graduation rate and see what’s happening in your community, view the 2015 Building a Grad Nation report here

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