In an effort to boost graduation rates in the United States, especially for the low-income and minority students who typically graduate at rates close to 50 percent, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) reintroduced the Every Student Counts Act (ESCA) on March 17.
“One of the greatest educational challenges we face is bringing down the dropout rate, especially for minorities and children with disabilities,” said Senator Harkin. “As children drop out, they face a lifetime of fewer opportunities and lower earnings. Economically, our nation cannot afford to lose one million students each year. Morally, we cannot allow children to continue to fall through the cracks. This legislation puts us on the right track towards turning back the tide of high school dropouts.”
The ESCA, which Harkin and Scott first introduced in the 110th Congress, would create a common graduation rate calculation and require states to report the graduation rates of student subgroups (race, ethnicity, income, etc.). It would also set a graduation rate goal of 90 percent for all students and disadvantaged populations. Schools, districts and states with graduation rates below 90 percent—either overall or for any student subgroup—would have to increase their graduation rates by an average of 3 percentage points per year to make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP).
In order to balance testing and graduation rates for accountability purposes, the bill would ensure that test scores and graduation rates are weighted equally when determining AYP so that schools have balanced incentives to both graduate their students and raise their test scores. It would also give schools, districts, and states credit for students who take longer than the typical four years to earn a regular diploma. Such a provision creates incentives for schools, districts, and states to create programs to serve students who have already dropped out.
“The current high school accountability system is failing our students and our future as a nation,” Scott said. “Almost one-third of all high school students in the United States fail to graduate with their peers and the numbers are worse for minorities as compared to non-minority students. Nationally, almost half of black students do not graduate from high school and students with disabilities have the lowest four-year graduation rates in the nation. “It is my hope that with this bill, we can make great strides toward graduating more of America’s students and preparing them to succeed in college and the workforce.”
More information on the Every Student Counts Act, including a summary of the legislation, is available athttps://all4ed.org/federal_policy/legislative_updates/ESCA.