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NEEDS IMPROVEMENT: Progress Report on American High Schools

After years of neglect, our nation’s high schools are gaining notice from policymakers, grant makers, the media, and a concerned public. A number of factors have combined to help focus attention on the millions of secondary school students who are at risk of not graduating from high school, or of graduating unprepared for college and a rewarding career. The corporate world needs a better-educated workforce. There is growing demand from the armed services for recruits with the skills and knowledge that are needed to serve effectively in an increasingly technology-oriented military. Publicity about our unacceptably high national dropout rates is causing a furor across the country in communities, which are trying to attract new businesses and residents. Private foundations such as the Gates Foundation and the Carnegie Corporation of New York are providing funds to school districts across the country to create new models of effective high schools.

It has been nearly two years since President Bush signed the No Child Left Behind Act into law. With the goal of holding schools and states accountable for the achievement of all students, NCLB requires various reports to be regularly issued, for at least the next 10 years, to make important information available to parents, policymakers, and the community.

In Left Out and Left Behind: NCLB and the American High School, the Alliance provided information about the NCLB mandates particular to high schools, and included the first release of nationwide and state-by-state numbers of schools which have been determined to be “in need of improvement.” It also compiled state and city graduation rates. The latest Alliance report, Progress Report on American High Schools 2003-04, builds on this effort and provides information on all 50 states, including how well they are performing when it comes to educating middle and high school students. The report serves as a compilation of available high school data including statistics from the National Center for Education Statistics and the National Assessment of Educational Progress, policy institutes such as the Manhattan Institute, The Education Trust, and the Urban Institute, among others.

The report also includes original work on the number of high schools in need of improvement and the number that are at the 75 percent poverty level, as well as an examination of state plans and how they deal with high schools. Using information from the approved state plans and the expertise of individuals at state departments of education, the report also includes summaries of the accountability plans for all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

Although the law requires that the list of schools must be available to the public before the beginning of the school year, the data have thus far been incomplete, unclear, and hard to find, making it difficult for parents, the community, and the media to correctly interpret the information they are receiving. The report attempts to summarize this information in an easy-to-understand format.

Progress Report on American High Schools 2003-04 (Out of Print)

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.