Understanding the issues that face us
is the first step toward resolving them.
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Secondary School Improvement


Each year, more than 1 million students fail to graduate from high school, limiting their job prospects and hindering the economy due to their lower earnings, increased dependence on social programs, and encounters with the criminal justice system.

Potential dropouts can often be identified as early as the elementary grades through “early warning indicators,” such as failing grades in core classes, low attendance, and discipline problems. Simply identifying at-risk students does nothing to mitigate their risk factors and help them graduate, but successful schools are using this data to help prevent students from falling off the track to graduation and target interventions and support to students who need them most.

Similar targeting of the nation’s lowest-performing high schools could also help reduce the number of dropouts. Within these schools, sometimes known as “dropout factories,” fewer than 60 percent of entering freshmen progress to their senior year three years later. There are 1,400 of these high schools across the country. They are located in every state and are found in urban, suburban, rural, and small-town settings.

Investments in the collection and use of data to improve policy and practice are beginning to provide information that is critical to targeting resources and interventions appropriately and effectively. Positive results are occurring; in 2013, the U.S. Department of Education reported that the national high school graduation rate was 78.2 percent, the highest it’s been since 1974, but significant graduation rate gaps remain between white students and their Hispanic, African American, and American Indian peers.

The realities of global competitiveness, the rapidly diminishing prospects of those students whose high schools fail to prepare them for college and work, and the resulting widening opportunity gap all make secondary school reform an imperative from economic, national security, and civil rights perspectives.


Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.