Report Says Nation Making Progress on Dropout Prevention


A new report released in conjunction with the White House Next Gen High School Summit has found the number of high school dropouts to have fallen from 1 million in 2008 to right around 750,000 in 2012.

Released by Alliance for Excellent Education, America’s Promise Alliance, Civic Enterprises, and Everyone Graduates Center, the report also discovered that more work on the topic is needed, as 1,235 high schools across the country were found to have around one-third or more of their students not graduating.

In addition, the number of “dropout factories,” or schools in which fewer than 60% of students do not graduate, have also dropped in number, from over 2,000 in 2002 to 1,040 in 2012.

The report, Progress Is No Accident: Why ESEA Can’t Backtrack on High School Graduation Rates, suggests that improvements made to the graduation rate are due to state and local efforts in addition to federal requirements put in place in 2008 and 2011 that focused specifically on dropout rates.  The report states that while Congress is working to rewrite the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), these federal policies need to be included and allowed to continue because they play an essential role in helping more students to graduate.

Federal efforts began in 2008 in an effort to address the “Silent Epidemic” occurring across the country as thousands of students dropped out of high school every day.  According to the report, this was costing the nation billions in potential wages.  In order to combat this, the US Department of Education issued a number of regulations such as requiring states to calculate their high school graduation rate using the same method, setting graduation rate goals, and mandating that districts intervene in schools with consistently low graduation rates.

Report authors discovered that as a result of these regulations, the national high school graduation rate rose from 74.7% in 2008 to 80.9% in 2012, with over one-quarter of a million additional high school students earning diplomas nationwide. The number of non-graduates were found to have decreased by over 1,5000 per day, going from 5,644 per school day in 2008 to 4,134 per day in 2012.

The report says that if graduation rates keep increasing, the country could see marked economic gains.  Analysis by the Alliance for Excellent Education found that if the national high school graduation rate was 90% for just one graduating class, there would be the potential for as many as 65,700 new jobs and an increase the national economy by as much as $10.9 billion.  Annual increases in federal and state tax revenue would be $1.3 billion and $661 million, respectively.

Despite the progress, the report suggests that there is much more to be made, as only two states lost fewer than 1,000 students from their graduating class in 2014, while most states lost tens of thousands.  The authors suggest that all high schools that do not graduate at least one-third of their students on time be included in state accountability systems and be eligible for federal school improvement funding.

The report also suggests that any school that does not mean state-set graduation rate goals within two years must implement targeted intervention.