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Cities in Crisis 2009: Report Pegs Average Graduation Rate in Nation’s Largest Cities at 53 Percent

“The ten-year graduation rates show that progress is being made in some of America’s largest cities, but significant work remains.”

Although the nation’s largest cities showed some progress in increasing their graduation rates from 1995–2005, their average graduation rate of 53 percent is well below the national average of 71 percent. So says Cities in Crisis 2009: Closing the Graduation Gap, a report released last month by Editorial Projects in Education, Inc. with support from the America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“The ten-year graduation rates show that progress is being made in some of America’s largest cities, but significant work remains,” said Alma Powell, chair of America’s Promise Alliance. “In order to continue to move forward and make the U.S. competitive in today’s global economy, we must work together like never before to provide the supports that young people need in order to graduate high school ready for college, work, and life.”

According to the report, sixteen cities have high school graduation rates of less than 50 percent while only three (Mesa, AZ, San Jose, CA, and Tucson, AZ) had rates higher than the national average.

Cities with the Highest and Lowest Graduation Rates

 City  Graduation Rate    City  Graduation Rate
 Mesa, AZ  76.6%  Indianapolis, IN  30.5%
 San Jose, CA  73.3%  Cleveland, OH  34.4%
 Tucson, AZ  71.6%  Detroit, MI  37.5%
 Seattle, WA  68.9%  Milwaukee, WI  41.0%
 Colorado Springs, CO  68.8%  Baltimore, MD  41.5%

The report tracked cities that made the greatest improvement over the ten-year period. Philadelphia, PA, Tuscon, AZ, and Kansas City, MO all saw their graduation rates increase by twenty percentage points or more. An additional eleven cities saw their graduation rates increase by at least ten percentage points. Conversely, nineteen cities experienced a decline in their graduation rates. Las Vegas, NV, Wichita, KS, and Omaha, NE saw double-digit declines.

The report also examines the connection between education and employment, finding that individuals without a high school diploma are less likely to be steadily employed, and earn less income when they are employed, than high school graduates. According to the report, the median income for high school dropouts is $14,000—significantly lower than the median income of $24,000 for high school graduates and $48,000 for college graduates. It adds that high school dropouts were the only group of workers who saw income levels decline over the last thirty years.

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.