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Many U.S. Students Start Ninth Grade But Won’t Finish Twelfth, According to Alliance for Excellent Education

Press Release:

Many U.S. Students Start Ninth Grade But Won’t Finish Twelfth, According to Alliance for Excellent Education

Federal Government Can Help by Expanding No Child Left Behind to Include Resources and Support for High Schools

This is a watershed year for American education, with Congress currently working on a renewal of the No Child Left Behind Act. In 2004, the last year for which data is available, only 70 percent of students graduated from high school on time.  And about 29 percent of the students who started ninth grade earlier this month read so far below grade level that they are at serious risk of not graduating in four years.

“The poor graduation rate is a wake-up call that we can and must do more to help our high school students,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance for Excellent Education and former governor of West Virginia. “All of us pay the price – not just the dropout, who is looking at a severely limited future, but also the rest of us, who need these new members of the workforce prepared to support the nation in a twenty-first century world that is becoming more and more competitive.”

The Alliance for Excellent Education, to help illustrate the potential economic benefits of an improved high school system that better prepares all high school students to graduate prepared for college and work, calculates that:

  • The nation would save more than $17 billion in health care costs for each class of dropouts, over their lifetimes, had these dropouts stayed in school and earned their diplomas.
  • American households would have over $74 billion more in accumulated wealth if all heads of households had graduated from high school.
  • More than $310 billion would be added to the national economy by 2020 if students of color graduated at the same rate as white students.
  • If high schools graduated all students ready for college, the nation would save more than $3.7 billion a year in community college remediation costs and lost earnings.
  • The American economy would see a combination of savings and revenue of more than $7.7 billion in reduced crime spending and increased earnings each year if the male high school graduation rate increased by just 5 percent.

Wise said, “While well-intentioned, the current NCLB simply does not address the dropout problem and permits far too many students to leave high school without an adequate education.  Congress has the opportunity, right at this moment, to ensure that the law extends to all students.  Now is the time to build on the ideals of ‘No Child Left Behind’ and pass legislation that leads the nation toward ‘every child a graduate.’”

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The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington-based policy, research, and advocacy organization that works to make every child a graduate, prepared for postsecondary education and success in life.

For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, please visit:

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Every Child a Graduate. Every Child Prepared for Life.