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Alliance for Excellent Education Calls on Congress to Address the Nation’s Lowest-Performing High Schools

Press Release:

Alliance for Excellent Education Calls on Congress to Address the Nation’s Lowest-Performing High Schools

Washington, DC – In advance of an April 13 Senate hearing on school turnaround, a new brief from the Alliance for Excellent Education released today calls on Congress to address the approximately two thousand high schools that account for nearly half of the nation’s dropouts. According to the brief, Prioritizing the Nation’s Lowest-Performing High Schools, these schools exist in every state and in 80 percent of congressional districts.

“When emergency medical personnel arrive at an accident scene, they immediately deliver treatment to the most severely LowestPerformingHSinjured, said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “Similarly, the nation must focus its attention on the lowest-performing schools with the largest number of ‘victims’ in the national dropout crisis. The fact that these schools are so widespread and contribute so greatly to the national dropout crisis dictates making them an essential focus of any federal effort to improve the graduation rate.”

In the nation’s lowest-performing high schools, sometimes known as “dropout factories,” graduation rates routinely fall below 60 percent. Over half of these schools have student bodies larger than one thousand, but others are small- or medium-sized schools. And contrary to a common misconception, not all of the nation’s lowest-performing high schools are located in urban areas; half are located outside city limits in suburbs, small towns, and rural areas.

In an era of diminishing financial resources, it makes good economic sense to target the nation’s lowest-performing high schools and focus attention, commitment, and resources on improving them, the brief argues. Directing strategic efforts to turn around these schools could significantly reduce the nation’s dropout rate.

The Graduation Promise Act (GPA), currently pending before Congress, would authorize $2.5 billion in new funding to ensure that high schools with the greatest challenges receive the support they need to implement research-based interventions. Additionally, it would strengthen a state’s ability to identify and target the level of reform and resources necessary to improve and turn around the nation’s lowest-performing high schools, while ensuring transparency and accountability.

“As the Congress works to reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act this year, it should include the Graduation Promise Act, which would provide states and school districts with the resources to implement effective, research-based reforms tailored to the specific needs of the nation’s low-performing schools and the students who attend them,” Wise said.

The complete brief, which includes a table outlining the number of lowest-performing high schools and the percentages of students who attend them for each state, is available here.


The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, please visit

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