Everyone at the Alliance has one goal,
to make every child a graduate.
boilerplate image

June’s Brown vs. Board Challenge: High School Graduation Rates

<< #OurChallengeOurHope Homepage

We hear a lot about how the U.S. high school graduation rate is at an all-time high of 84.6 percent, but a high school diploma remains out of reach for many of our nation’s most underserved students. In some states, the high school graduation rates for African American, Latino, and other students of color are more than 20 percentage points below those of white students.

Throughout June, as part of our #OurChallengeOurHope campaign to honor the intent of Brown vs. Board of Education not just on its 65th anniversary, but year-round, we are highlighting the difficult path to high school graduation facing so many of our nation’s young people and how, with the right support systems, every student can walk across the stage on graduation day. We also encourage you to engage a conversation in your school, home, or community about the challenges facing high school students today. Here are some resources to get you started


Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates

Held on June 11th  by the convening partners of the GradNation campaign—America’s Promise Alliance, The Alliance for Excellent Education, Civic, and The Everyone Graduates Center—this event will feature the release of the 2019 Building a Grad Nation report plus two moderated panels. One panel will focus on challenges facing homeless students while the other will consider how efforts at improving high school graduation rates must lead to stronger secondary and postsecondary outcomes.

Falling Through the Cracks: Students Without High School Diplomas

More than 2,000 of America’s public high schools are graduating two-thirds or fewer of their students. Most of the students in these schools, with an average graduation rate of 40 percent, are African American, Latino, and low-income. This June 17 webinar examined these low-graduation-rate high schools and the students they enroll. Panelists offered research-based solutions for educators and policymakers on how to ensure that these and other students earn their diplomas.

OurChallengeOurHope Reflections

We continue to collect short videos of individuals sharing their challenges and hopes sixty-five years after Brown was decided. Want to add your reflections to our list? Tweet them using #OurChallengeOurHope and be sure to tag @All4Ed.

John King
10th U.S. Secretary of Education 
President and CEO, The Education Trust

Robert Balfanz
Director, The Everyone Graduates 
Center at Johns Hopkins University 

John Bridgeland
Founder and CEO, Civic

Barbara Duffield
Executive Director, SchoolHouse Connection

Elaine Williams
Young Adult Leader, SchoolHouse Connection

High School Gradation Success Stories

The following narratives can assist as you develop conversations in your schools and communities about the importance of helping all students realize a better future. While the details of each narrative may not resonate directly with your community or students’ needs, what should resonate is that every school has students who struggle daily, often with challenges that we may know very little about in their lives. Offering hope to all students should be a priority for each one of us.

‘Nobody could ever separate us’: High school graduate celebrates by hugging father at U.S.-Mexico border
A Texas high school graduate’s dedication to her father has gone viral after he was not able to attend the ceremony to watch her get her diploma. “My whole life I had thought that my whole family was going to be there,” Ruiz said. “Unfortunately, my dad couldn’t be there because he can’t cross.”

‘She’s a success story’: Kokomo senior triumphs in school despite turbulent upbringing
Zara Hooper remembers things from her childhood – things that no child should have to remember. By the time she was four years old, she was taking care of her baby brother, who was born addicted to meth. She remembers nights when she went to bed hungry, or the weird things she’d find in her mom’s room. She knew they shouldn’t be there, so she’d throw them away.

“Better Days are Coming”
“Better Days Are Coming” tells the story of Davonte Johnson, a student at East English Village Preparatory Academy in Detroit, Michigan. Davonte’s story is not unfamiliar; it is that of too many black kids who must, on a daily basis, contend with under-resourced schools, including a lack of effective teachers, school counselors, social workers, and up-to-date textbooks.

How 11 English-learning students became some of Nashville public schools’ top graduates
Veen Tovi used to watch other kids playing or talking to each other while she was in English-language classes. There was a significant part of Tovi that wanted to be just like those kids in her school — carefree and not struggling to learn English. Tovi, however, is a standout among thousands of Nashville public school students who graduated from this year’s 2019 class. She is now part of a group of eleven students who earned valedictorian or salutatorian honors after entering Nashville public schools needing to learn English.

Homeless Valedictorian Scores More than $3 Million in College Scholarships
The stress of senior year can be overwhelming. Combine that with challenges at home, and it can derail any high school student’s academic career. Memphis high school senior Tupac Mosley maintained a 4.3 GPA, scored a 31 on his ACT, and was named valedictorian—all while dealing with the death of his father and the lack of a permanent home.


Thinking Long Term: State Graduation Rate Goals Under ESSA
This report details the goals for graduation rates under the Every Student Succeeds Act. While high school graduation rates continue to rise, this report mentions concerns of a lack of college and career preparation. Additionally, this report includes data displaying the change in the national graduation rate, graduation rates by states and charts related to ESSA goal attainment specifically.

Improving High School Graduation Rates Among Males of Color
This brief includes trends, findings and recommendations for improving high school graduation rates among males of color.

Public Education, Career and Technical Education, and Dropout Prevention
This paper focuses on career and technical education (CTE) as a dropout prevention/intervention/recovery strategy and how CTE can be engaging to all students, including and perhaps especially for those at-risk of dropping out of school.

Public high school 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR)
Public high school 4-year adjusted cohort graduation rate (ACGR), by race/ethnicity and selected demographic characteristics for the United States, the 50 states, and the District of Columbia: School year 2016–17.

2019 Building a Grad Nation: Progress and Challenge in Raising High School Graduation Rates
The 2019 Building a Grad Nation report, takes an in-depth look at the progress made in raising high school graduation rates and the state and district sources of those improvements and identifies where challenges remain. This report also links the improvements in high school graduation rates to the need to ensure that all students, including those historically underserved by the education system, graduate high school prepared for postsecondary education.

Paper Thin? Why All High school diplomas are not created equal?
This report builds on prior research and shows the degree to which traditionally underserved students graduate from public high schools having earned a college- and career-ready (CCR) diploma, in comparison with their peers, in the twenty-three states that offered students multiple pathways to a diploma for the Class of 2014.

Share Your High School Graduation Success Story!

If you or someone you know has a compelling story about high school graduation, please share it with us. If you have a son, daughter, grandchild, or someone special graduating from high school, let us know.

Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.