When President George W. Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law in 2002, the U.S. national high school graduation rate was 72.6 percent. Today, the national high school graduation rate has reached an all-time high of 81 percent and the number of low-graduation-rate high schools has declined considerably. While this progress is notable, significant work remains to ensure all students graduate from high school prepared for college, a career, and civic life.
Evidence demonstrates that investments in high school turnaround efforts have succeeded. Moreover, research shows that the current federal strategy of investing in the early years and in postsecondary education, while largely skipping over middle and high schools, is unlikely to yield the greatest returns. An Elementary and Secondary Education Act reauthorization provides the opportunity to implement a more coherent, evidence-based policy of reform and investment that includes middle and high schools.